|Ham, one of the original "astrochimps," captured in Africa.|
Save the Chimps was established in 1997, under the leadership of founder Carole Noon, Ph.D., in response to the U.S. Air Force's announcement that it was getting out of the chimpanzee research business. At the end of the long giveaway process, most of the chimpanzees, described by the USAF in a Wall Street Journal article as "surplus equipment," were sent to the Coulston Foundation (TCF) in Alamogordo, NM, a biomedical laboratory with the worst record of any lab in the history of the Animal Welfare Act. Save the Chimps sued the Air Force on behalf of the chimpanzees given to TCF. After a year-long struggle, Save the Chimps gained permanent custody of 21 chimps, survivors and descendants of the baby chimps captured in Africa in the 1950's and used by the Air Force in the original NASA space research program.
A generous donation by the Arcus Foundation enabled Save the Chimps to purchase 150 acres for a permanent Chimpanzee rescue sanctuary in Fort Pierce, Florida, and to construct a new three-acre island home, complete with hills, shelter, and climbing structures for the Air Force Chimps. Attached to the island is a secure, hurricane-proof indoor housing area, where the chimps are served meals three times daily. The indoor housing connects via tunnel to a second building, the Introduction Building, where the Air Force Chimps were first united as a family.
Not long after The Air Force Chimps’ release onto their new island home, Save the Chimps rescued five former
pet chimps, and two former entertainment chimps, expanding our mission to include the rescue and permanent retirement of chimps used in biomedical research, entertainment, and the pet trade.
The vision of Save the Chimps was -- and remains -- to create a sanctuary where rescued chimpanzees can live out their lives without the threat of ever returning to a laboratory, entertainment, and the pet trade. By 2002, 28 chimps called Save the Chimps home, but knowing there were more chimps in need , Dr. Carole Noon anticipated the construction of a second island, the rescue of more chimps, the formation of another social group. She expected to grow slowly but surely over time.
But an unexpected event rapidly expanded the scope of Save the Chimps--overnight.