For Immediate Release
After decades of struggling to secure their freedom, Animal Protection of New Mexico shares exclusive photos of 19 New Mexican research chimpanzees in their first months of safety.
KEITHVILLE, LA – After 30 plus years and more than 500 painful, invasive medical procedures, 19 New Mexico chimpanzees confined to a Texas research facility can finally live the life they deserve at Chimp Haven, a sanctuary in Keithville, La. Animal Protection of New Mexico (APNM), along with several partners, including former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, fought for more than 20 years to rescue these chimps and make their freedom a reality. The journey to sanctuary began in April, weeks after New Mexico Community Foundation’s Chimpanzee Sanctuary Fund awarded Chimp Haven $85,500 in grant funding. The cost of caring for a chimpanzee in sanctuary can be over $15,000 a year.
“When the National Institutes of Health (NIH) agreed to retire all remaining chimpanzees held in research labs, we were so grateful they chose to do the right thing,” said Laura Bonar, chief program and policy officer for APNM and leader of the organization’s chimpanzee program. “We began working immediately to get these 19 chimps out of the lab where they have known so much suffering and into the natural surroundings of sanctuary.”
Of these 19 chimpanzees, Elijah, Opal, Rosie, Cammy and Theo became the face of APNM’s movement to protect chimpanzees. From the time they were babies these chimps endured biopsies and blood tests, and were exposed to diseases like hepatitis and HIV. Now they finally have a chance at peace and dignity as they start their new lives at Chimp Haven, a 200-acre sanctuary on the outskirts of Shreveport, La. (Pictures and individual updates at the end.)
“At Chimp Haven, many of them will have the opportunity to enjoy spacious, multi-acre habitats and other large enclosures, climb trees and live in large and complex social groups,” said Cathy Spraetz, president and CEO of Chimp Haven.
APNM partnered with countless concerned New Mexicans to help end testing on chimps and work toward their retirement to sanctuary. Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson not only spoke up for these chimpanzees during his time in office, but also continues to fight for the humane treatment of all chimpanzees through The Richardson Center for Global Engagement.
“The Richardson Center for Global Engagement has always been passionate about ‘retiring’ these chimps in sanctuaries – both in the US and in Africa,” said Richardson, the Center’s founder. “I am pleased to see former New Mexican lab chimps, like Cammy, Opal and Rosie, acclimating so well to their new home in Chimp Haven.”
APNM’s work for chimpanzees began in the 1990s, but significant headway was made six years ago, when Richardson lead a coalition that included APNM, the Humane Society of the United States, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and 25,000 concerned citizens to fight to protect nearly 200 chimpanzees held in a facility at Alamogordo, N.M.
“The coalition made the difference,” Richardson said.
Bonar couldn’t agree more.
“Working together is key,” she said. “These 19 are now in sanctuary, and their rehabilitation will just get sweeter over time. It’s beautiful to watch them live without the stress of the constant threat of testing, and realize that, for the first time in their lives, they can just be chimps.”
Bonar and her staff at APNM pause only for a moment to savor this victory, before shifting focus to the estimated 140 chimpanzees still housed in a research facility in Alamogordo, N.M. The Chimpanzee Sanctuary Fund currently has nearly $400,000 to award, and the need is urgent, as some of these chimps are sick and elderly.
“We want to move them before they pass away in a lab setting,” Bonar explained. “Even one moment in sanctuary is better than none. New Mexicans have worked tirelessly to get Rosie, Opal, Theo and the others to sanctuary,” Bonar said. “We have 19 reasons to celebrate, but 140 reasons to work harder and keep pushing forward.”
To stay updated on the chimpanzees’ progress, or to give the gift of sanctuary to a chimpanzee still in a research facility, please visit chimpstosanctuary.org.
Elijah: A timid and gentle chimpanzee, 24-year-old Elijah has made several new friends since arriving at Chimp Haven, and has been reunited with old pal, Camillo, whom he lived with years ago. When they were re-introduced they immediately embraced with a giant “bear hug.”
Opal: Opal came to Chimp Haven with her sister, Angel. She is the younger of the two, but still quite strong and defensive. The 35-year-old is very friendly with people, and is known to have a dramatic and dominant personality.
Rosie (Right): Rosie is a very sweet, people-oriented female. The 34-year-old is bold and sometimes impatient when her groupmates get rambunctious, but she gets along with all of them, and is always kind and gentle.
Cammy: Cammy was born in 1980 on Holloman Air Force Base and taken away from her mother the same day. In sanctuary, the 35-year-old is often seen playing with her friend, Casey, or exploring her yard.
Theo: Theo and his half-brother Camillo are both very handsome chimps. The 23-year-old is energetic, gregarious and playful gets jealous of attention given to other chimps. His half-brother Camillo was also retired to Chimp Haven with the support of a grant from the Chimpanzee Sanctuary Fund.
Photos courtesy of Chimp Haven.
You can help the 140 chimpanzees still held in Alamogordo reach sanctuary by supporting the Chimpanzee Sanctuary Fund.