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Save the Chimps: Islands of Hope

Stephen Brown

EXPANSION: THE WORLD'S LARGEST CHIMPANZEE SANCTUARY

Arthur exploring the island at Save the Chimps - couretsy of Save the Shimps

   In 2002, the Coulston Foundation, nearly bankrupt because of violations of the Animal Welfare Act, sold its laboratory and donated all of its 266 chimpanzees and 61 monkeys to Save the Chimps for $3.7 million, made possible, again, by a grant from the Arcus Foundation. On September 16, 2002, Save the Chimps took over the Coulston facility in New Mexico, rescuing the chimps from research, making it the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in the world overnight.

   Over a span of nine years, Save the Chimps transformed the Florida property, building an additional 11 islands for the Coulston chimps. But this massive expansion paled in comparison to the work being done in New Mexico.

   Save the Chimps immediately took to improving the confines at Coulston, breaking down the walls the research laboratory had built for these animals, enlarging their enclosures, changing their diet from strictly monkey chow to include fresh foods and forming family groups, thus ending their isolation.

   “We had to teach them to be chimps again,” says veterinarian Jocelyn Bezner. “For some of the Coulston chimps, their entire life was spent in a cage at a facility, isolated from one another. Chimps are a highly social animal; this isolation caused a great deal of depression. So we introduced the chimps into family groups.”

   Though it may sound innocent enough, introducing chimps to one another is a painstaking process that can completely unravel in the end. In controlled conditions, chimps were slowly introduced to one another, first with objects that had the other’s scent, then visually with a barrier separating them and finally, if all went well, in person.

chimpanzee santuary - Save the Chimps in Fort Pierce

   “In some situations though, once they met face to face, they wound up not getting along and needed to be separated,” Benzer says. “It was frustrating because it was so time consuming, but in the end, it is the chimp’s well-being we are after, and that includes emotionally as well as physically.”

   It took years to finally form the family groups that now hold sway over the islands in Fort Pierce. Relocating them from New Mexico to Florida—28 rounds trips totaling more than 100,000 miles—was another thing altogether. With a customized trailer, Save the Chimps began transporting 10 chimps at a time, each with a window seat. In December of 2011, the final leg of the Great Chimpanzee Migration was completed, bringing all of the Coulston chimps to their new “Islands in the Sun.” But the conclusion of the Great Chimp Migration was bittersweet. Founder and fierce chimpanzee and great ape advocate Noon passed away in May of 2009, never getting to see her vision come to full fruition. But hers was the voice that spoke for those that had none, making Save the Chimps possible.

 

Continued on page 3

 

 


To help keep the doors open at Save the Chimps, visit their website and see how you can help.

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