Roam With The Chimps

Save the Chimps is one of the largest chimpanzee sanctuaries in the world whose mission is to provide refuge and exemplary care to chimpanzees in need. Located in Fort Pierce, Florida,  Save the Chimps offers life-long care for chimpanzees rescued from research laboratories, the pet trade, and entertainment industry.

Save The Chimps | Sanctuary | Ft. Pierce | Florida

Did you know that chimpanzees are the closest living relatives of humans? Humans share more of their DNA with chimpanzees than with monkeys, apes or any other groups.     

Located in Fort Pierce, is one of the largest chimpanzee sanctuaries in the world. You would never know that this rare facility is located in our backyard. Save the Chimps organization is saving the lives of many chimpanzees that were used in research, entertainment and military uses. Captive chimpanzees in the United States cannot be released back to the wild for multiple reasons. Chimpanzees must learn from their elders how to survive in the forest – what to eat, where and how to find food and water, how to make tools, how to avoid predators, etc. – they cannot survive based on “instinct.”  Captive chimps in the US have been denied the opportunity to learn the skills needed to live independently. They are completely dependent on us for their survival. 

Chimpanzee | Save The Chimps | Sanctuary | Ft. Pierce | Florida

The late Carole Noon, Ph.D, founded Save the Chimps in 1997 in response to the U.S. Air Force’s announcement that it would no longer conduct research on chimpanzees. Outraged over the treatment and conditions that these chimpanzees had endured, Dr. Noon sued the Air Force on behalf of the captive chimpanzees and gained permanent custody of twenty-one chimps. Her bold, courageous and humane actions were the genesis of Save the Chimps. 

Envisioning bright sunshine and blue skies for the rescued chimpanzees, Dr. Noon and Co-Founder Jon Stryker of the Arcus Foundation, worked together to purchase 150 acres in Fort Pierce, Florida and designed a state-of-the-art chimpanzee sanctuary, including a three-acre island home, complete with hills, shelter, and climbing structures from the Air Force. This island home enabled the chimps to roam freely and make basic choices formerly denied to them.

Three months after the arrival of Save the Chimps’ first rescued chimpanzees, an unexpected event forever altered the scale and scope of the new organization. The Coulston Foundation––a biomedical research lab based in New Mexico with multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act––was going bankrupt and offered to sell their laboratory land and buildings, as well as donate 266 chimpanzees to Save the Chimps. It was a pivotal moment for the sanctuary and a call to action that Noon and Stryker felt couldn’t be ignored. Thus began the single largest rescue effort ever on behalf of captive chimpanzees. 

Save The Chimps | Sanctuary | Ft. Pierce | Florida

Save the Chimps took over the Coulston Foundation to become the largest privately funded chimpanzee sanctuary in the U.S. Save the Chimps modified the lab into a healthier and happier environment for the chimpanzees and started what would later be referred to as the “Great Chimpanzee Migration”; the nine-year process of moving those 266 chimps from the lab to new island homes in sunny Florida. On December 14, 2011, the Great Chimpanzee Migration was completed as the final group of Coulston chimps were released onto their new island home.

Now that these animals are safe at Save the Chimps, how is their day to day life? The chimps live in large family groups on 12 separate 3-acre islands, most of our residents lived alone in small confined cages for decades. The islands give the chimps’ choices and control over their own lives, something many of our residents had never experienced.

An enriched outdoor environment allows the chimps to roam, visit with friends, bask in the sun, or curl up in the shade. This freedom provides them with the dignified and peaceful retirement they have always deserved.

The most important gift the chimpanzees have is each other. In the wild, chimpanzee communities may range in size from 15 to 120 chimps of both sexes and all ages. In their former lives as research subjects, pets, and entertainers, many of the chimps lived alone. These chimpanzees are now getting a second chance at life. They live in large family groups of up to 26 members and are learning how to play, laugh, and groom – all natural behaviors for chimpanzees.

Save The Chimps | Sanctuary | Ft. Pierce | Florida

Chimps Love to Eat! They are opportunistic feeders, meaning they consume fruit and vegetables that are ripe and available during different times of the year. Save the Chimps is able to obtain nutritious food items year-round to provide three balanced meals per day. You always know when it’s time to eat, as meals are met with loud, happy vocalizations from the chimps! 

Save the Chimps is also trying to reinvigorate the chimps by making their retirement the best it can. Many of the chimpanzees in their care endured years of a barren and lonely existence. Save the Chimps is committed to providing the chimpanzees with the best retirement possible. In the wild, chimpanzees must navigate a complex physical and social environment in order to survive. Nature has equipped chimpanzees with a big brains and powerful bodies to handle all of the challenges they might encounter. In captivity, however, it can be challenging to provide all that chimpanzees need to keep their minds and bodies active. They may grow bored and develop abnormal behaviors. Enrichment encourages captive chimpanzees to be active and problem solve. Enrichment also provides variety, choice, comfort, and fun for the chimpanzees. The result is happier and more active chimpanzees.

The chimps receive top notch medical care. This includes preventative health screenings including echocardiograms, ultrasounds, radiographs and bloodwork to find and treat medical problems early in the course of a disease. It also means treating acute problems when they occur. Our veterinarians, consulting specialists, technicians, and a community of volunteer medical doctors guarantee that the chimpanzees’ health issues are addressed with the latest diagnostics and best medicine available.

Chimpanzee | Save The Chimps | Sanctuary | Ft. Pierce | Florida

At Save the Chimps, any chimpanzee who is temporarily or permanently unable to live in one of our 12 large chimpanzee families is considered to have special needs. Some chimpanzees with special needs have a difficult time getting along with other chimps and others have medical conditions that could be exacerbated by living with a large group of chimpanzees. Some of these chimps live in the Special Needs facility, and others “time-share” an island with a larger social group.

How can we, the human population help these remarkable creatures? You can “join their family.” Your donation will help provide quality care to the beloved chimpanzee residents including fresh and nutritious meals, exceptional veterinary care, innovative enrichment, and the social companionship necessary for the chimps to live happy and full lives. 

Save the Chimps is not open to the public to help ensure a peaceful retirement for the residents. Members of the Caregiver Society are invited once a year to the sanctuary through an annual event or prearranged appointment. 

To learn more about how you can support this wonderful organization, check out their website savethechimps.org.

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