Chimpanzees in Need: A Success Story
Cy, leader of the Lucky Six group, enjoying new amenities at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest. All six arrived from Wildlife Waystation June 26, 2021. Photo credit: Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest
Dear Wildlife Watchers, our corner of the animal advocacy world can be a pretty frustrating place. We’re making progress on several fronts, but it’s a slow and sometimes imperceptible process, especially here in Nevada.
I, for one, need an infusion of hope and inspiration. The story of Chimpanzees in Need provides all that and more. It is a story of massive obstacles met and overcome, a story of boundless compassion and dedication, and ultimately, a story of success.
To fully appreciate this victory, it is helpful to know some basics about chimpanzees, specifically captive chimpanzees here in the U.S., where they have been exploited in medical research, the entertainment world, and the pet trade.
- Next of Kin by Roger Fouts (book)
- The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary (book) by Andrew Westoll
- All blogs from Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest
- Chimpanzees are apes, not monkeys.
- Chimpanzees are highly endangered. One hundred years ago, there were an estimated 1-2 million chimpanzees across twenty-five countries in Africa. Today, there are as few as 350,000 wild (high estimate) chimpanzees across Africa. https://www.worldchimpanzeeday.org/
- Laboratory testing on chimpanzees, humans’ closest living relative, and other great apes was effectively banned in the United Kingdom in 1997. A number of other countries have similar bans, including New Zealand, the Netherlands, Japan, and Germany.
- Chimpanzees still suffered abominable conditions in U.S. biomedical labs for many years thereafter.
- At long last, June 11, 2013, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposal to classify both wild and captive chimpanzees as endangered.
- September 14, 2015 the USFW proposal is enacted . “It’s hard to overstate how important this is. For nearly a hundred years, chimpanzees have suffered and died in our pursuit of scientific and medical advancements. Later this month, all invasive research on chimpanzees will, at least for a moment, come to an end.”
– J.B. Mulcahy, co-director Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest
- Read the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) statement.
Photo Credits: Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest
The Wildlife Waystation, located in northern Los Angeles County, was a well-known 160-acre refuge for a great variety of wild and exotic animals. Under the leadership of founder Martine Colette, this was a refuge for chimpanzees released from biomedical laboratories, as well as rescues of many different species from the entertainment industry and the pet trade.
After Colette’s retirement, the Waystation found itself unable to continue caring for more than 470 animals, including lions, tigers, wolves, owls, alligators and chimpanzees. The refuge unexpectedly announced its closure in August 2019, meaning the entire population needed new homes.
This enormous challenge was met for other species, but 41 chimpanzees remained. There are only a handful of accredited sanctuaries able to care for chimpanzees, who are extremely strong, smart, and socially complex, and require specialized care and housing.
Chimpanzees in Need
The North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA) was brought in to help locate new homes and lead the campaign to save these chimpanzees in need. The campaign is fiscally sponsored by 7th Generation Advisors, and supported by California Department of Fish and Wildlife, partnering accredited sanctuaries, and remaining team members of the Wildlife Waystation. Learn more here before donating to help
Watch as the Lucky Six: Cy, Lucky, Dora, Rayne, Gordo and Terry begin their journey from southern California to central Washington state. The transport van was provided by Project Chimps, another accredited sanctuary. Ed Pert, Regional Manager, South Coast Region, CA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife describes his agency’s role and Erika Fleury, Program Director, NAPSA is on hand to explain the need for and the philosophy and advantages of accredited sanctuaries.
A touching moment briefly shows Anher Flores, Senior Manager,Wildlife Waystation, clasping the hand of a chimpanzee in a transport cage to say goodbye. The tribute to Anher Flores
was written July 16, 2021. At that time 26 chimpanzees remained at Wildlife Waystation, but since then every single chimpanzee has found a wonderful new home, though more funds are needed to transport them there.
The accredited sanctuaries identified to rescue these chimpanzees will provide them a new beginning in healthy environments where they will thrive. Click to learn more about each – and the chimps they are saving!
New home construction and long-term care is costly. Every dollar donated goes directly to the chimpanzees in need. All donations are tax deductible and will be accepted and administered by 7th Generation Advisors, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation (Tax ID:20-8771636). The campaign is supported by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, partnering accredited sanctuaries, and the remaining team members of the Wildlife Waystation. No humans are paid. All the funds go to construction of new homes – one year of future care – and current costs at Wildlife Waystation.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Of the many remarkable and inspiring aspects to the story of Chimpanzees in Need, the role of California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is exceptional. I emailed Ed Pert, Regional Manager, South Coast Region, California Department of Fish and Wildlife. I had seen him in the online Chimpanzees in Need Insider Briefing May 18, 2022, where I was impressed by his openness, his concern for the animals, and the major role CDFW took on. We exchanged these emails:
Is your relationship with Wildlife Waystation unusual? Are there other instances of wildlife departments supporting sanctuaries?
That relationship is very unusual. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has never engaged in a project like this. The circumstances were so unfortunate and dire that CDFW had no real choice but to step in and rehome the 481 animals that were possibly not going to have food or water. Thankfully, the Wildlife Waystation staff stayed on to care for the animals. Without that, it would have been a real catastrophe. I am not aware of any other state wildlife departments that have taken on anything like this. CDFW staff did amazing things to find great homes for all the animals. North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA) and others have been incredible partners in finding homes for the chimps. This has been a gratifying ride.
The cost and responsibility are considerable! How much longer can CDFW maintain their support?
That’s a good question. The Governor’s Office has approved an allocation to CDFW to support our efforts through the end of next fiscal year (i.e. June 2023). But we believe all the chimps will be rehomed by then so this should be the last needed allocation by the state. Our fingers are crossed.
Did you have occasion to interact with the chimps?
Yes. My experience is that if you don’t get to see chimps very often, they can be scary and intimidating animals because they become very agitated at first. And I’m not one to be afraid of animals, in general. I love and respect all animals. But if you get the chance to spend more time with chimps, for me, they become incredibly sensitive beings. They can still be scary because of their physical power, but they can also be extremely gentle and caring toward one another.
I envy you the opportunity to get to know them. Do you miss those who moved on?
I don’t see them enough to miss them the way I would if I spent a lot of time with them. If I did spend a lot of time at the Wildlife Waystation, I’m sure I would miss them! Thankfully I see them on video at their new, wonderful, homes and that’s very rewarding. My job is to get them to those new homes and I’m very happy and grateful at each move. I’ve been at the facility to witness each move so far. But I know it has been very hard on the caretakers. Some of them have been caring for those chimps for more than 30 years.
Did the CA Wildlife Commission have responsibility to approve your involvement with WW? Were they supportive?
I think you mean the California Fish and Game Commission. They did not have any involvement, but the members have been very supportive. We are also working on an effort to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again by changing the regulations for these types of facilities. It shouldn’t be possible to create a facility for animals and then have to shut it down without enough support to care for the animals. To be fair, this was not entirely the fault of the Wildlife Waystation directors. There were mitigating circumstances. Still, we need to ensure that this does not happen elsewhere.
Update from Ed Tuesday July 5, 2022 The “Sunrise Seven” go to Save the Chimps
We just moved 7 more chimps to Florida last Friday night/Saturday morning. It was a long day but in the end it all worked out great. The chimps are all doing really well in their new home. 11 more to go!
This sad announcement was circulated on August 17, 2022:
It is with very heavy hearts we [Wildlife Waystation] share the sad news that Alyse, one of our 11 remaining chimpanzees at Wildlife Waystation, passed away at age 33. Alyse and her identical twin sister, Amber, were nearly inseparable throughout their lives together. Both Alyse and Amber were rescued from a biomedical research facility. Amber is doing fine and spending time with the twin’s best friend, Mousse, to pass the time. The staff are monitoring this pair of friends closely during this sudden transition.
Now there are 10 chimpanzees remaining at Wildlife Waystation awaiting transfer to Chimp Haven by the end of the year.