Freedom at last for 10 laboratory chimpanzees now home-sweet-home at Project Chimps

For years, in some cases decades, the chimps lived in a research lab.

They never knew life outdoors, or without being observed and prodded by scientists.

But now, 10 female chimpanzees have made their way to a 236-acre sanctuary in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia.

Project Chimps welcomed the chimps, aged 8 to 29, from the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana, to its sanctuary where 200 other former research chimps have found new lives.

Among them, 28-year-old  “Precious,” a female research chimpanzee dealing with chronic kidney disease, who is now in permanent retirement

“There, she will live the remainder of her life with the opportunity to climb trees in a forest, forage under an open sky and, eventually, choose her own friends,” the facility said in a statement.

The other chimpanzees recently retired from the lab and moved to Georgia are Jurita, 29; Jamie, 29; Jill, 28; Torian, 10; Tiffany, 10; Tristen, 9; Sophia, 9; Krystal, 8; and Haylee, 8.

Each one a true individual.

Thirty-nine other chimps that had been relocated to the sanctuary from NIRC over the past two years. Many were part of a breeding program, which means several are related to other chimps already there.

“With the arrival of Precious and her nine group mates, we are another step closer to our shared vision with the New Iberia Research Center of all the chimpanzees living in the tranquil Blue Ridge Mountains,” Ali Crumpacker, executive director of Project Chimps, said in a statement.

Precious, for example, will  meet her daughter, 9-year-old Loretta.

Caring for them is not cheap. Food and care costs about $22,000 per year per chimp.

Which is why the facility is fundraising.

“Like the other groups and individuals involved in this effort, the Humane Society of the United States stepped up when the opportunity to work with NIRC to provide permanent sanctuary emerged,” Kitty Block, acting president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United State, wrote. “We hope that you’ll continue to step up as a supporter of this and other efforts to hasten and secure the best possible retirement for chimpanzees in the United States.”

The new residents will have a chance to explore the sanctuary’s six-acre forested outdoor habitat after a 30-day period to settle in.

This is the sixth group of chimpanzees to make the journey from NIRC to Project Chimps since the sanctuary welcomed its first residents in September 2016.

The U.S. ended unrestricted invasive experiments on chimps on Sept. 14, 2015, and wild and captive chimps were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Soon after, the National Institutes of Health, announced it would no longer fund invasive chimpanzee research and would retire all government-owned chimpanzees.

Project Chimps has an agreement to help transfer these chimps to their new permanent homes.

Photos Project Chimps

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Recovering newspaper reporter.

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