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Retired Chimp FAQs

NIRC Questions and Answers

Q: Did the University decide to relocate the chimpanzees to Project Chimps’ sanctuary in response to animal activists or recent pressures?

A: No, the University has been planning retirement and subsequent movement of its chimpanzees from the New Iberia Research Center for over two years. The University’s first meeting with Project Chimps was in Fall of 2014. The University has arranged to relocate all 220 of its retired chimpanzees to Project Chimps’ sanctuary.

Q:  When will the chimpanzees begin moving to the Project Chimps’ sanctuary?

A: The exact date is to be determined; Project Chimps anticipates that the first groups will move in the Summer of 2016.

Q: How many chimpanzees will move in each group? 

A: All chimpanzees at the Center are socially housed, like human beings, with their family and friends.  To maintain the chimpanzees in their social groups of families and friends, Project Chimps will move up to 10 at a time.

Q: When will all of the chimpanzees be moved to the sanctuary?

A: It depends primarily on the availability of suitable space at the sanctuary that fits the specific needs of the chimpanzees being moved. We anticipate that it will take three to five years for Project Chimps to move all 220 retired chimpanzees.

Q: If they are already retired, why does it take so long to move the chimpanzees? 

A: The chimpanzees require specialized handling and care. The University and Project Chimps want to act in the best interests of the chimpanzees. Project Chimps will make sure adequate and safe space is available for each social group.

Q: Will Leo, Hercules, Jade and Ryker (her one-year-old) be moved?  If so, when?

A: They will move to the sanctuary with their social groups. The Center and Project Chimps will determine which groups move at what time, based exclusively on the well-being of the chimpanzees.

Q: What type of research were the chimpanzees used for? How healthy are they?

A: Contrary to some misperceptions, most of our chimpanzees have never experienced invasive biomedical research. The vast majority of the colony was never accessed for any research; they are mostly housed at the Center. Only a few chimpanzees were accessed for research programs, and even fewer for biomedical research.

All chimpanzees are well cared for and received round-the-clock veterinary care if needed. They are maintained in social groups consisting of family and friends. Each chimpanzee was given a name by care staff, and the staff remains devoted to each chimpanzee’s best interests. Each chimpanzee has access to outdoor play areas and daily sunlight, and much care is devoted to not only their physical, but also psychological well-being. Other than a few aging ones, nearly all of them are in very good mental, social and physical health. They also are provided healthy diets and snacks, air-conditioned housing, engaging toys, social time and friendly interaction with humans.

Q: Were the chimpanzees born at the Center?

A: All of them were born in captivity; most of them were born at the New Iberia Research Center. A small percentage were born at other centers and transferred to New Iberia.

Q: What is the age range of the chimpanzees?

A: The age range is just over 1 year to 50 years old. We have a one-year-old that resides with its mother.

Q: How long do chimpanzees live? What do they die from?

A: In captivity, as a positive result of regular food and expert care, they can live up to 50 or 60 years. Besides old age, they tend to have diseases very similar to humans. Aging in chimpanzees is accompanied by cardiovascular issues, stroke, and metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and cancer.

Q: What is the group arrangement?

A: For the most part, social groups are peer arrangements consisting of either all male or all female members. These arrangements reduce the possibility of accidental breeding. Chimpanzees in the wild have been known to form small groups of like-gender similar to what exists at the Center.

Q: Have the chimpanzees ever been outside at the Center?

A: Yes, all chimpanzees at the Center have access to outdoor play areas daily and natural sunlight. 

Q: What is the University’s response to allegations that chimpanzees are warehoused?

A: Those comments have been made by individuals who have never visited the Center and were motivated by a specific agenda. All chimpanzees have access to outdoor areas regularly and are socially housed with peers. A wide array of toys, novel food treats, puzzles and human interaction is available daily. A warehouse implies a place of negligence and indoor restriction, which is not the case.

Q: How do the chimpanzees communicate?

A: Besides their instinctual verbal and non-verbal communications, some of them know American Sign Language or their own version of it. They regularly communicate with their human caretakers by whatever means works for both the chimpanzees and the care staff. 

Q:  What do the chimpanzees eat? What is a chimpanzee’s favorite food?

A: Their basic diet consists of a balanced and complete primate biscuit containing 23-26 percent protein provided twice daily. Additionally, fresh fruits and vegetables are provided three times a week. Food puzzles and other “fun foods,” such as peanut butter, mashed potatoes, honey, jelly, bread, and pancakes are provided three times weekly in portion-controlled amounts. Just like people, individuals have their own favorite food. Grapes are a universal favorite.

Q: Will the chimpanzees be negatively affected by the transfer and a change of their caretakers? 

A: Chimpanzees will be transferred in stable social groups to minimize stress. Chimpanzees are naturally curious and tend to adapt well to new environments if their basic needs and preferences are met. The Center has extensive data on each animal that will be provided to Project Chimps’ sanctuary to ensure a full understanding of each animal. Expert advice will be shared and communication lines will be open between the Center and sanctuary to ensure a smooth transfer. We feel confident that Project Chimps caretakers will provide them with the high-quality care that they have been accustomed to.

Q. Do the chimpanzees need human interaction?

A: Chimpanzees know their caretakers well and will react to new figures with a variety of responses. They are naturally curious and interact with their environment. They will learn quickly who their new caretakers, and food providers, are and develop relationships with them. They certainly show very positive responses to their caretakers at the New Iberia Research Center, which is indicative of good treatment and positive interaction.