I am so pleased to share the latest news in a series of actions taken over the last seven years to help chimps in laboratories – nine chimpanzees from the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana have safely arrived at the nation’s newest chimp sanctuary, Project Chimps. I want to congratulate Project Chimps on welcoming Buttercup, Charisse, Emma, Genesis, Gertrude, Gracie, Jennifer, Latricia, and Samira to its north Georgia facility.
Project Chimps worked with New Iberia (a facility The HSUS investigated in 2009 – an event that triggered a national reexamination of America’s responsibilities to chimps used in laboratories) on an agreement to transfer its entire population of 220 chimpanzees to lifetime sanctuary care. Today’s transport starts the process of moving those 220 chimps from laboratories to sanctuaries. The HSUS is extremely proud to be a founding financial supporter of Project Chimps, having provided the capital to purchase the Georgia property, which was originally created to be a gorilla sanctuary (and thus already had some of the needed infrastructure). The HSUS is also pleased to provide our expertise and assistance to the sanctuary, with our staff members serving on the board of directors and working with the accomplished professionals of the Project Chimps team to help them with this major endeavor.
The HSUS has led a decades-long fight to end the use of chimpanzees in laboratory research, with so much help from the Arcus Foundation and others, and helping this new sanctuary is part of our commitment to see the task to its logical conclusion. The end of the use of chimps in invasive experiments came after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acted on a petition from The HSUS to declare captive chimpanzees as endangered. That action followed on the heels of the National Institutes of Health’s announcement that it would no longer fund invasive chimpanzee research and would instead retire all 400 or so government-owned and -supported chimpanzees.
With these enormous gains, helped along so meaningfully by NIH director Francis Collins, all of us at The HSUS felt strongly that we should play a role in securing sanctuary retirement for those chimpanzees remaining in laboratories – through government and private actions.
Save the Chimps and Chimp Haven are the two biggest and most established sanctuaries – caring for more than 400 chimps between them – but they alone cannot handle the influx of the animals from labs. An additional facility would help address that capacity problem. We hope and believe that Project Chimps will be a part of the answer to that dilemma, and a strong contributor to the long-term care needs of these deserving chimps.
The Project Chimps team got to meet the new residents while the chimps were still at New Iberia. They also learned a bit about each individual: Jennifer, Gracie, and Genesis are fun-loving and eager for attention while Emma and Samira are shy and prefer to hang back and observe; Charisse and Buttercup are identical twins who can only be differentiated by one freckle; Gertrude is very mischievous and playful; and Latricia is the steady leader of the group. It’ll be so exciting to see how they do once they are flourishing in their new home.
The sanctuary will rely primarily on donations from the public to care for their new residents and to make retirement a reality for many others—so this is just a start, and much more heavy lifting remains. But today, let’s celebrate Project Chimps’ exciting milestone and congratulate the sanctuary on welcoming its first residents! We feel confident they’ll be most excited about their new home.