A lovely new story in the Washington Post tells the tale of Joseph Thomas and the other wonderful individuals involved in caring for 60-plus chimpanzees in Liberia who are the survivors of hepatitis B and blood cleansing experiments carried out beginning in the 1970s.
Joseph and the other caretakers kept the chimpanzees alive even in an uncertain moment some years ago, and never abandoned them. And that made it possible for us to step in, with a commitment to ensure a better outcome for the chimpanzees and the remarkable people who have devoted themselves to the animals’ care on a group of estuarine islands.
After the U.S.-based biomedical research organization that had collected the chimpanzees began to phase out its experiments in the early 2000s, it moved the chimpanzees to the islands. Unfortunately, there was little physical infrastructure in place for their care, and there was not enough food or water on the islands. In 2015, funding for the animals’ care stopped abruptly.
That’s when we got involved, coming to an agreement by which the research organization would provide approximately half the funds needed for the chimpanzees’ lifetime care. We’ve taken on the rest of the financial responsibility, committing to permanently looking after the surviving animals. With feedings scheduled twice a day, state-of-the-art veterinary services, and lots of attention from Joseph and other caregivers, these animals no longer have to struggle to meet their basic needs and can spend their time just being chimpanzees.
In 2017, I visited the sanctuary, and I was deeply moved to see just how amazing and resilient the animals are. Despite their difficult past, they show an incredible zest for living and a strong sense of kinship and community.
There are animals like Goofie, born in the laboratory’s breeding colony, who underwent 10 years of research before she was retired. Goofie has a son, Denyon, who, at five, is one of the youngest chimpanzees on the island and loves to play with other young chimpanzees under his mother’s watchful eye. Frequently, you’ll find Goofie hugging, kissing and tickling Denyon. It’s heartwarming.
Caregivers make sure that Goofie, Denyon, and other chimps including Snow White (Goofie’s mom), Anita, Finn, Bean, Rhinoceros, Kowura, Hannie, DJ and Will, get the very best care we can provide. Some could live for another 50-plus years, and we want to make sure that they never do without food, water, and the attention they deserve.
Quite a number of the chimpanzees have special health needs, and one of our priorities has been to improve infrastructure and operations on the islands, including the addition of a full-time veterinarian and sanctuary expert to the staff. This is an expensive undertaking, but it’s necessary, and we’re confident that our supporters will help to meet the ongoing needs of this remarkable community of animals.
We are especially grateful to the U.K.-based Zipper Foundation, which recently provided a CBC machine, that will help us to do still more for the animals’ health. The machine can diagnose whether a chimpanzee has a viral, bacterial or parasitic infection, allowing the user to quickly identify and provide appropriate treatments for a wide range of illnesses.
Our future plans include the construction of a new veterinary clinic close to the islands as well as additional infrastructure around the islands. And this is where you come in. We’ve launched a new website: www.liberiachimps.org through which donors can “adopt” a chimp and view the animals on video. Please take a look and make a personal commitment to support our efforts to help the animals of the Second Chance Chimpanzee Refuge. Together, we’ll make sure that these chimpanzees, who deserve the very best we can offer them, can spend the rest of their lives in peace.