Last year, I traveled to Liberia where I met more than 60 chimpanzees and the amazing people who care for them at our Second Chance Chimpanzee Refuge Liberia. It was deeply moving to see the chimpanzees who were used for biomedical research and endured great suffering in laboratories for decades before they were left on islands in need of emergency care; they were so resilient and it was a joy to see them thriving. And it was a true honor to meet the wonderful Liberian nationals on our team, many of whom worked hard to care for the chimpanzees during and after the civil war in Liberia and despite an acute shortage of basic resources, like food and water.
The chimpanzees, for whom we have been responsible since 2015, have thrived under our care. They now receive food and water twice every day and have a constant source of fresh water provided by our team of nearly 30 staff members.
Today, for Giving Day for Apes, I want to highlight our Liberia sanctuary, and to let you know why our commitment to lifetime sanctuary care is so important and so deserving of your support.
Each one of these animals has a unique story, of course. But during my visit I was particularly captivated by that of Bullet, who had his arm amputated because of an infected bullet fragment he received while in the wild and who was then used in biomedical research for decades. Now, he is living happily and peacefully with the rest of his family at the refuge.
Our work to protect chimpanzees in captivity and in the wild is a great source of pride for us here at the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International. Over the years we have made phenomenal gains, including our successful leadership in bringing an end to all invasive chimpanzee testing in the United States. But our work to help those animals is not over. We have much to do, to provide animals who suffered for years in research with the opportunity to retire to sanctuaries where they can finally put their feet up, make new chimpanzee friends, and experience some of the things that chimpanzees in the wild would naturally do.
Here in the United States, we have worked to relocate the first 50 retired research chimpanzees to permanent sanctuary at a program we support, called Project Chimps, located in the Blue Ridge mountains in Georgia. We’re involved in a commitment with this facility to provide lifetime care to more than 200 chimpanzees who will eventually live here.
As committed and persistent as our team is in making positive change happen for chimpanzees, none of our work – and the progress we have achieved — would be possible without you. That is why, on Giving Day today, we hope you will lend your support to our project in Liberia and the chimpanzees there. Like the animals we’ll be helping to bring to Project Chimps, and the two chimpanzee residents at our Black Beauty Ranch in Texas, the animals at Second Chance Chimpanzee Refuge Liberia deserve the very best from us, and we’re determined to give it to them.
Giving Day for Apes is sponsored by the Arcus Foundation, which has long been dedicated to ensuring high quality care of apes in sanctuaries and conservation of apes in the wild, and the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, which works to ensure high standards of care for animals in sanctuaries. The organizers have tried making this a fun event by fostering a spirit of healthy competition between ape sanctuaries across the world. There are “power hours” for giving, golden tickets and leaderboard prizes, and all of them will go toward helping make the world a better place for our closest cousins.
I encourage you to watch this powerful video for a small glimpse into our ongoing work in Liberia. I feel sure that you’ll be just as touched as I was when I first saw these incredible animals who have survived despite tremendous odds, and are now finally leading the carefree and joyful lives they deserve. We’ve come so far in our campaign to provide safe haven for the chimpanzees coming out of research uses around the world; we hope that you’ll want to help us do even more to give them the best and most beautiful lives possible in their new circumstances.