Project Chimps, in partnership with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, announced an agreement to relocate 220 retired research chimpanzees to its new sanctuary in northern Georgia.
Project Chimps, a nonprofit organization, and the University’s New Iberia Research Center began negotiating the agreement more than two years ago to resettle the largest population of chimpanzees from a U.S. research center. The NIRC retired its chimpanzees from research in 2015, prior to reclassification under the Endangered Species Act.
Beginning June 2016, NIRC-owned chimps will be transported to the Project Chimps 236-acre sanctuary in Blue Ridge, Georgia.
All NIRC chimpanzees will be moved in social groups to the sanctuary over the next several years, according to Sarah Baeckler Davis, a Project Chimps founder and its president and chief executive officer. Each group will include up to 10 chimpanzees.
The agreement is significant because it represents the first time a non-federal program has arranged to release its entire population of research chimps, according to Baeckler Davis.
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is also contributing funding toward their care at the sanctuary.
“We’re making history here,” said Baeckler Davis. “We’re thrilled to partner with NIRC on this retirement of so many chimpanzees. It’s an unprecedented collaboration and a momentous occasion for chimpanzees.”
Dr. Ramesh Kolluru, vice president of Research at UL Lafayette, said, “Project Chimps is the appropriate partner for our chimpanzees. We share many values. I believe that for the rest of their lives, our chimpanzees will be provided with the high-quality care they’ve been accustomed to at NIRC.”
Baeckler Davis added, “We feel confident that the chimps will continue to receive excellent care at NIRC during the transition. Project Chimps and NIRC staff will cooperate on every aspect of each chimp’s well-being.
“Project Chimps is grateful to our initial donors who have helped us move so quickly for the sake of these chimps.
“We are vigorously continuing our fundraising efforts following the announcement of our agreement. We are working to secure significant support from the public, which will ensure the expeditious resettlement of the chimps to their new retirement community within a spacious sanctuary. Anyone can help bring these chimps to their new home.”