When astronaut and former US Senator John Glenn returned from space for the second time in 1998 and was again hailed as a great American hero, many of the chimpanzees who helped make his first trip around the Earth possible were languishing in small cages at a biomedical research facility in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Unfortunately for these unwilling pioneers of America's early space program, they also had "The Right Stuff." Because of the genetic and physiological similarities between chimpanzees and humans, science "uses" our next of kin for various types of research. In 1997, with decreasing roles and increasing costs the US Congress directed the Air Force to divest itself of the remaining 141 "space" chimps. Despite valiant attempts by several humane organizations, the Air Force awarded almost all of the chimpanzees to the infamous Coulston Foundation.
After being taken from Africa over forty years ago for use by the US Air Force, years of invasive experiments, isolation and neglect at The Coulston Foundation, and a lawsuit for their freedom, 21 "space" chimpanzees have finally received a long overdue retirement to The Center for Captive Chimpanzee Care in Fort Pierce, Florida. The Center, run by Dr. Carole Noon and developed under the guidance of board members Dr. Jane Goodall, Dr. Roger Fouts, and Jon Stryker of the Arcus Foundation, is the first sanctuary in the US solely dedicated to caring for captive chimpanzees. Located on 150 acres in southern Florida, The Center is a state of the art facility designed to provide the highest level of enrichment possible for up to 150 chimpanzees. Included on this abandoned orange grove is a 2.4-acre island where the chimpanzees will live.
On the day when the first group of eleven chimpanzees arrived, Dr. Noon said, "Everything went better than expected; they all got along so well." When the second group of ten arrived, Dr. Noon was even more nervous but again put at ease by their pleasure in finding a good home and caring people. Congratulations to everyone at The Center for their commitment and compassion towards these twenty-one chimpanzees.
To see pictures and bios of the chimps, or to find out more about The Center please visit http://www.savethechimps.org/.
|Captured in Africa:
|Born in a US research facility: