Updated Jan.11, 2022
As a leader in the successful fight to end the use of chimpanzees in research, we have for years been the biggest supporter and donor to Project Chimps, a Georgia sanctuary that cares for chimpanzees retired from New Iberia Research Center.
The sanctuary has always planned to expand living spaces for its animals and increase the size of its top-notch outdoor habitat. After more than five years of providing significant yearly financial and administrative support, in 2022, we will amplify our commitment to the sanctuary, pledging an additional $20 million. This pledge includes an initial grant of $5 million that will serve as a major kickstart toward the total funds needed for the sanctuary’s second large outdoor habitat and housing construction, and up to an additional $15 million over the next 10 years to support the sanctuary’s operational needs and help it move toward becoming
Project Chimps will require further support from donors to achieve its full expansion plan, but we anticipate that this considerable influx of funds will enable Project Chimps to begin moving forward with its plans to construct expanded outdoor habitat.
The pledge will also help support Project Chimps in its long-term vision to bring in more of the chimpanzees who are currently still awaiting transport out of New Iberia Research Center, providing these animals with the enriched and caring environment they deserve and allowing them to reform cohesive and supportive social groups.
In addition to the funds, we will continue to provide ongoing staff support focused on helping the sanctuary raise the money to meet its full construction needs by the end of 2023.
We are excited to support the sanctuary in its capacity for care, providing more outdoor time for its current residents and welcoming more chimpanzees to a peaceful retirement.
VETERINARIAN DR. LAURI CRIMMINS JOINS SANCTUARY STAFF
Oct. 8, 2021
Dr. Lauri Crimmins has joined the staff at Project Chimps, a sanctuary in Georgia to which we provide financial and administrative support. Crimmins is a member of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians and the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Project Chimps recently became the first sanctuary to vaccinate chimpanzees against COVID-19. The USDA and state veterinarians have authorized the vaccine for animals on a case-by-case basis.
Additionally, in September, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries renewed the sanctuary's accreditation, certifying that it has successfully met the qualifying criteria for GFAS' Standards of Excellence, which address animal care, governance, finance, guidelines, education and outreach, staffing, physical facilities, security and safety and veterinary care. Other reports on Project Chimps are available on the sanctuary's website.
Assessment by the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes
July 2, 2021
The Humane Society of the United States has reviewed the findings of the recent independent assessment of Project Chimps. 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. Unfortunately, in March that veterinarian left the sanctuary due to a medical emergency, so Project Chimps is again seeking a permanent replacement. In the meantime, their long-time veterinarian has returned, and the sanctuary also has direct access to several other experienced chimpanzee veterinarians as consultants.
- 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.