New building makes room for more chimpanzees to retire at Project Chimps

By on January 17, 2020 with 0 Comments

I arrived at Project Chimps yesterday just as dinner was being served to its residents: 79 retired research chimpanzees who now call this verdant, 236-acre sanctuary nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia their home.

The building we were in is a brand-new, state-of-the-art structure named the Laurie and Carlee McGrath Chateau, after the two generous donors whose funding and support made it possible, and it is the fifth and largest chimpanzee house at the sanctuary, with room for 40 chimpanzees. There are already 14 residents at the Chateau and, contrary to what I had expected, they were an incredibly patient lot at dinnertime. At home, mealtimes with my dog Lilly and cats Misti and Storm are an enthusiastic affair, so I assumed there would be lots of jockeying among the chimpanzees for the best position, and some pushing. Instead, the animals waited calmly for their turn, apparently aware of the order and pace of the caretakers serving their meal. They didn’t all clamor to the front of their enclosures, and even appeared to know who got what and when. When dinner—nutritional biscuits, vegetables, fruits and a frozen pumpkin smoothie for dessert–was served, they ate quietly and happily.

We were even treated to an impromptu after-dinner performance by one of the chimpanzees, Leo, who danced around, drumming on everything in his enclosure. He kept time and beat perfectly.

What made my trip even more special this time was that I was here with Laurie McGrath and her mom, Carlee, who, at 94, traveled from California to see the chimpanzees. Also pictured, on the right, Ali Crumpacker, executive director of Project Chimps.

My job as president and CEO of the nation’s most influential animal protection organization takes me into nearly every type of situation involving animals, from the heartbreaking to the heartwarming. Being here, at Project Chimps, which is supported by the Humane Society of the United States, definitely falls in the latter category. What made my trip even more special this time was that I was here with Laurie McGrath and her mom, Carlee, who, at 94, travelled from California to see the chimpanzees.

We toured the sanctuary, which opened five years ago, and its many facilities designed with the comfort and care of its very special residents in mind. There’s the six-acre Peachtree Habitat, a lush, forested area with no caging overhead, where the chimpanzees can forage, climb and play, exactly like they would in the wild. They spend their time eating, laying in the sun and sleeping. At the sanctuary’s veterinary hospital, staff and volunteers conduct careful scientific observations of the chimpanzees to monitor their behavior and use of the enrichment tools offered, and also work to promote the animals’ successful social integration.

The Chateau is a 5,600-square-foot building and in addition to the bedrooms for the chimpanzees, it has climate-controlled, large group enclosures and an open-air enclosed porch. It was built at a cost of $ 1.3 million. Among the animals who have already moved in are Hercules, who was only two when he was leased to a New York lab where he and his group mate at Project Chimps, Leo, were forced to walk upright in a study of locomotion. Then there’s Kareem, a gentle giant who arrived at Project Chimps after spending 29 years in various labs.

The HSUS led a decades-long fight to end the isolation and suffering of chimpanzees like Hercules, Leo and Kareem in laboratories. In 2015 our efforts led to the United States government’s announcing that it would list all chimpanzees as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, effectively ending all invasive chimpanzee research in the country. Helping Project Chimps is part of our commitment to ensure that the animals coming out of such research have a place to retire peacefully.

The sanctuary is the result of an agreement negotiated between the founders of Project Chimps and the New Iberia Research Center, which houses the largest population of privately owned chimpanzees, to transfer its entire population of animals to lifetime sanctuary care. The completion of the Chateau will allow Project Chimps to bring an additional 40 chimpanzees to permanent retirement from the NIRC. By the time all animals move in, the sanctuary will house more than 200 chimpanzees.

It was with a heavy but full heart that I said goodbye to the beautiful animals of Project Chimps this afternoon. There are lots of plans for the sanctuary in coming years, and already I am looking forward to my next visit. A second phase expansion to build new chimpanzee habitats and housing from the ground up is now underway. As we work toward our shared goal of retiring all 200 chimpanzees at NIRC to Project Chimps, we continue to look forward to your enthusiastic support and commitment to help make this important dream come true. Please give generously for these animals, so they can spend the rest of their days in peace and comfort, far from the horror and memory of life in a research lab.

HSI responders saving koalas, kangaroos and other animals in wildfire-ravaged Australia

By on January 16, 2020 with 0 Comments
HSI responders saving koalas, kangaroos and other animals in wildfire-ravaged Australia

The Humane Society International rescue team’s reports from Australia’s Kangaroo Island describe an “apocalyptic” scene. Once a critical wildlife habitat celebrated the world over for its pristine wilderness, Kangaroo Island has been ravaged by the recent bushfires, with at least 600 square miles of land . . . 

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Breaking news: Court rules California’s foie gras ban will stand

By on January 15, 2020 with 0 Comments
Breaking news: Court rules California’s foie gras ban will stand

A federal judge has just shut down the latest challenge to California’s foie gras ban, in an important ruling that reaffirms the right of states to enact legislation that protects animals in agriculture. Today’s district court ruling is the latest in a long-running saga that . . . 

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States, localities step up to help pets left outside in the cold

By on January 14, 2020 with 4 Comments
States, localities step up to help pets left outside in the cold

Each year, as winter settles in and temperatures drop dangerously low in parts of the country, we hear heartbreaking reports about companion animals left in the cold. Last month, in Clayton, Wisconsin, an extremely thin dog froze to death after being chained and left outside . . . 

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Norwegian company fires U.S. executive amidst rising public sentiment against trophy hunting

By on January 13, 2020 with 5 Comments
Norwegian company fires U.S. executive amidst rising public sentiment against trophy hunting

Public disapproval of trophy hunting and the havoc trophy hunters wreak on the world’s endangered and threatened wildlife is on the rise, both here in the United States and around the globe. We recently saw a striking example of this in play when a Norwegian . . . 

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Breaking news: Pennsylvania charges two teens who abused a dying deer with animal cruelty under Libre’s Law

By on January 10, 2020 with 81 Comments
Breaking news: Pennsylvania charges two teens who abused a dying deer with animal cruelty under Libre’s Law

In November, Americans were stunned by a viral video that showed two teenagers kicking and stomping an injured white tail deer they had just shot. In the 30-second clip, Alex Smith, 18, and his companion could be seen laughing and ripping off one of the . . . 

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Nebraska once again opens its fragile mountain lion population to trophy hunters

By on January 10, 2020 with 35 Comments
Nebraska once again opens its fragile mountain lion population to trophy hunters

Last week, a trophy hunter killed a mountain lion in Nebraska and posted a photo of himself on social media with the dead animal, a one-and-a-half-year-old male. While most Americans would find this unnecessary killing of a majestic native carnivore horrifying by itself, the facts . . . 

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HSUS and HSI training helps law enforcement officers spot, report animal cruelty

By on January 9, 2020 with 1 Comment
HSUS and HSI training helps law enforcement officers spot, report animal cruelty

Last year, Officer Stevie Hargenrater, a humane officer in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, was called to a property where she found a dead Rottweiler and a small sheltie mix in terrible condition. The officer had recently participated in the Humane Society of the United States’ training . . . 

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HSI will deploy this week to help animals affected by Australian wildfires

By on January 7, 2020 with 20 Comments
HSI will deploy this week to help animals affected by Australian wildfires

Wildfires ravaging the Australian continent have killed 25 people and are taking an unprecedented toll on the country’s rich wildlife and other animals. We have all seen these heart-wrenching images in the media: dead koalas scattered across scorched landscapes; frightened cows standing under orange-red skies . . . 

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New Maryland law heralds progress against puppy mills nationwide

By on January 6, 2020 with 1 Comment
New Maryland law heralds progress against puppy mills nationwide

A new law that ends the sales of puppies and kittens in pet stores has just taken effect in Maryland this New Year, heralding a new era of progress for companion animals suffering in puppy mills. Maryland is only the second state to pass such . . . 

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And the award goes to… the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, for a plant-based menu at the Golden Globes

By on January 3, 2020 with 2 Comments
And the award goes to… the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, for a plant-based menu at the Golden Globes

At the Golden Globes this Sunday, Hollywood’s A-list celebrities will sit down to an all-plant-based dinner. And while no one knows yet who will take home the evening’s top awards, the menu—chilled golden beet soup, king oyster mushrooms scallops and wild mushroom risotto, and roasted . . . 

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Let’s make this the year we end cosmetics testing in all of the United States

By on January 2, 2020 with 2 Comments
Let’s make this the year we end cosmetics testing in all of the United States

Residents of three U.S. states can now buy cosmetics in stores without having to worry whether they may have been tested on animals. On New Year’s Day yesterday, a ban on the sales of cosmetics newly tested on animals went into effect in California, Illinois . . . 

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