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Florida Animal Sanctuary Offers Refuge for Chimpanzee

Photo: "Terry" now lives at the Save the Chimps Sanctuary in Fort Pierce. Courtesy: Save the Chimps
Photo: "Terry" now lives at the Save the Chimps Sanctuary in Fort Pierce. Courtesy: Save the Chimps
October 15, 2013

FORT PIERCE, Fla. - A Florida animal sanctuary is providing a new home for an aging chimpanzee left homeless last month after his former abode, the Las Vegas Zoo in Nevada, unexpectedly closed. Terry the chimp has been at the Save the Chimps facility in Fort Pierce for a little over a week now and is doing well, according to Sanctuary Director Jen Feuerstein.

"It definitely took him a few days to really get settled in," she said. "You know, it was a huge change for him after being in the same place for 18 years, but he's starting to be more relaxed around the staff. He's eating well."

The zookeepers at the Las Vegas Zoo quit, claiming they were not allowed to properly care for the animals. About 200 animals were displaced, and animal welfare workers have been working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to find homes for all of them. Staff is already working to help Terry make friends with the 260 other chimps at the sanctuary, which is the largest in the world.

April Truitt, who is president-elect of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance, said Terry was isolated at the zoo in Las Vegas, which is not a natural situation for such an animal.

"A single chimp sitting alone for 18 years is just the worst possible thing I can ever imagine, for a chimp to not have the company of another chimp," Truitt said.

Feuerstein said they expect their sanctuary to grow in future years because of a decision earlier this year by the U.S. government to phase out much of its laboratory testing on chimpanzees.

"The U.S. is retiring a lot of chimpanzees who are living in laboratories today, so there's going to be an increased need for public support for chimpanzee sanctuaries like Save the Chimps."

The Save the Chimp facility accepts donations and offers concerned citizens the opportunity to adopt a chimp by offering financial support, or to create care packages through the website Amazon.com.

Link to sanctuary at PrimateRescue.org.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - FL