Nine retired chimps that were used in lab research have just arrived at Project Chimps, a newly opened sanctuary in Georgia that houses chimpanzees that are not being used in labs. This group of chimpanzees come from the University of Louisiana’s New Iberia Research Center and will live in a new home with access to open outdoor space and toys.

In 2015, the United States Fish and Wildlife service changed the “endangered” status of chimpanzees to “threatened.” As a result, chimpanzees cannot longer be used in biomedical research, according to the National Institute of Health. Jennifer, Gracie, Genesis, Buttercup, Charisse, Emma, Gertrude, Patricia, and Samira are the nine new chimpanzees that arrived yesterday at Blue Ridge, Georgia, a 1,200-people town where the sanctuary is located. They are all female aged 10-12.

Project Chimp
A chimp transferred to the Project Chimps sanctuary in Georgia. Image credit: Project Chimp.

“There’s been this landscape change on the federal level regarding chimps and research,” said the President and CEO of Project Chimps, Sarah Baeckler Davis. “We’re at a point now where the public and policy makers, and politicians and scientists, are all on the same page that chimps should not be used in research anymore.”

200 chimpanzees will join Project Chimps

Project Chimps began negotiations with New Iberia in 2014 about the possibility of taking in its whole chimp population. The 236 acres of land comprised the former gorilla sanctuary Dewar Wildlife Trust, but their last two gorillas were sent back to the Atlanta Zoo, so the space was donated to Project Chimps.

Project Chimp
Project Chimps Sanctuary in Georgia. Image credit: Project Chimps.

Currently, the facility can house up to 80 chimps, but Project Chimps is building new installations to house up to 300 chimps. This will allow the organization to receive the remaining chimps from New Iberia.

‘It’s the first time they really get to be chimps’

Davis noted that the chimps they received, and will be receiving, haven’t had much of indoor or outdoor access in their former life. They were all born in captivity. She said that the staff in the facility is dedicated to the chimps’ well-being. They want to give them choices on what to eat, what they want to do and what toys they want to play with.

The chimpanzees will have the opportunity to socialize, play, and decide how they want to spend their time, while the organization takes care of them and keeps them healthy. They will be under birth control, and some of them will even get a vasectomy.

The president of Project Chimps also admitted they would like to receive public to the sanctuary, to observe and interact with chimps, but she made clear that it would not receive as many people as a zoo.

“It’s generally the first time they really get to be chimps and have some say about how their day and their life goes,” Baeckler Davis said.

Source: Popular Science