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, New Mexico, 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. In 1999, after a year-long struggle, Save the Chimps gained permanent custody of 21 chimps, survivors and descendants of the chimpanzees captured in Africa in the 1950's and used by the Air Force in the original NASA space research program.
In 1999 Jon Stryker, founder and president of the Arcus Foundation, met Carole Noon and thus began a powerful partnership that would forever change the future of the sanctuary and the lives of the chimps under its care. Dr. Noon and Mr. Stryker worked together to purchase 150 acres and design a state-of-the-art chimpanzee sanctuary in Fort Pierce, Florida. A three-acre island home, complete with hills, shelter, and climbing structures for the Air Force Chimps was constructed. Attached to the island is a secure, hurricane-resistant 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 the mission to include the rescue and permanent retirement of chimps used in biomedical research, entertainment, and the pet trade.
In 2002, Save the Chimps made the commitment to rescue 266 chimpanzees from the Coulston Foundation laboratory in New Mexico and to manage their care in New Mexico until such time as they could all be moved to the Florida location. With continued generous financial support from the Arcus Foundation and other donors, the former laboratory was renovated into a sanctuary, and eleven additional islands were constructed at the Florida location. The first chimps moved from the New Mexico location to the island sanctuary in Florida in 2003. On December 14, 2011 the Great Chimpanzee Migration came to an end when the final 10 chimpanzees arrived at their permanent home in Florida.
In 2009, Dr. Carole Noon passed away, leaving an extraordinary legacy. By then, Save the Chimps had become the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in the world and was known by its peers for its exceptionally high standards for chimpanzee care. Jon Stryker continues to provide leadership, vision, and generous support to Save the Chimps. The world-class sanctuary and high standards of care were made possible because of the shared vision and commitment of founders Carole Noon and Jon Stryker.
The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries Carole Noon Award for Sanctuary Excellence has been created to honor visionary contributions to the animal sanctuary field.
The honor memorializes Carole Noon, Ph. D., a courageous and innovative sanctuary pioneer and champion of chimpanzees. The first award, given in 2009, will be awarded posthumously to Dr. Carole Noon.
Carole Noon, Ph.D. exemplified these traits with an innovative spirit, creating solutions to overwhelming challenges; a deep knowledge of those entrusted to the care of the sanctuary, a dedication to animals and a determination to succeed that manifested in a commitment to ensure humane and responsible care for the lifetime of each of the sanctuary residents.