The Humane Society of the United States has reviewed the findings of the recent independent assessment of Project Chimps, a sanctuary in Georgia to which we provide financial and administrative support. We commend Project Chimps for committing to the assessment and opening its operations to the expert scrutiny of Dr. Steve Ross of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes. We were pleased to see high ratings for the sanctuary in 2 of 3 categories of assessment (those ranking the chimps’ social lives and spaces), and are discussing with the sanctuary the work that needs to be done in the programmatic area, where the assessment noted some room for improvement.
According to the report, “The assessment of the chimpanzees’ social lives was that it was excellent.” The chimpanzees at the sanctuary were found to be living “a very rich and dynamic social life,” and to be displaying low rates of abnormal and anxiety-related behaviors. “Subjectively speaking, and based on past experience, the rates listed here are remarkably good,” the assessment concluded. The assessment also praised the spaces the chimps enjoy at Project Chimps, noting that they are “broadly exceeding those used to house chimpanzees elsewhere,” though with the caveat that “a substantial drawback of the space was the relatively limited access to the outdoor yards.”
In the third “programs” category, the assessment noted some specific areas to focus on, including deepening veterinary resources and expertise (including possibly adding clinic staff as the chimp population grows), increased attention to behavioral monitoring to assess welfare, and further development of the existing positive reinforcement training program. Further details can be found in the full report.
This independent assessment—and the one performed by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries before it—confirms that allegations of "abuse" at Project Chimps are profoundly off the mark. They also signaled that there were areas where Project Chimps would do well to make some upgrades. Many of these have already been prioritized and implemented. Among other things, Project Chimps has:
- Hired a full-time veterinarian with chimpanzee experience.
- Hired a full-time behavioral specialist.
- Built additional climbing structures and resting platforms in its newest housing area.
While Dr. Ross specifically noted that some of the identified issues are challenges common to the chimpanzee sanctuary world and not unique to Project Chimps, as an organization devoted to animal protection, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) aims to support the sanctuary in attaining top standards across the board.
While Project Chimps has prioritized and made many recommendations, the HSUS will continue to work with Project Chimps leadership to prioritize the remaining improvements and exploring ways we can help them meet these needs.
We deeply appreciate the people who care enough about these chimpanzees to have reached out to us with questions and concerns about their care. As Project Chimps continues to make headway in its work to address the items identified as needing improvement, we encourage everyone to visit the sanctuary’s website for updates and to support the sanctuary as it continues to grow and provide a great home for these retired chimpanzees.
Assessment by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries
Last updated August 15, 2020
In 2020, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), a sanctuary accrediting body, carried out a formal site visit at Project Chimps. That assessment confirmed that claims alleging mistreatment of chimpanzees were unfounded and misleading. As part of the GFAS assessment, one of the most well-respected and experienced chimpanzee veterinarians in the world did an assessment of each chimpanzee in April. She found that every chimpanzee was healthy and well cared for. Project Chimps has remained accredited throughout this process. GFAS did make some recommendations, most of which were already planned or in process. Per Project Chimps, all of these have been completed:
- Contracting with a vet, in addition to the existing veterinarian, who has extensive chimpanzee experience to review specific medical cases and carry out an in-person assessment of all chimpanzees. (Note: The contracting veterinarian concluded that all chimpanzees were in good health.)
- Adding a cover sheet to each chimpanzee’s medical file highlighting the information contained within it.
- Prioritizing the development of standard operating procedures that focus on issues such as health assessment, body condition scoring, monthly weight monitoring and fecal collection.
- Implementing a planned schedule for providing physical enrichment items to ensure the rotation of those items.
- Prioritizing the addition of certain features of the already-planned installation of new climbing structures, including low platforms.
- Ensuring a trained spotter is present and observing when another trained staff member enters the zone closest to the chimpanzee enclosure.
- Renewing the search to fill a position that focuses on behavioral needs and/or enrichment for the chimpanzees.
For more details, please read our response to one individual who posted misinformation on social media about Project Chimps as well as the Humane Society International’s Second Chance Chimpanzee Refuge Liberia.