History

They are our cousins – like us in so many ways, but they’ve been cruelly exploited as biomedical research subjects, coerced as entertainers, and kept inappropriately as pets. Many chimpanzees were also used to test the effects of space travel in the early days of the NASA space program.

The late Dr. Carole Noon’s wish to provide a sanctuary for retired Air Force chimps used in the space program sparked the creation of Save the Chimps in 1997. The Air Force initially rejected Save the Chimps’ bid to retire the chimps, but after a lawsuit, awarded custody of 21 Air Force chimps to STC. Jon Stryker of the Arcus Foundation shared Dr. Noon’s vision for the chimpanzees, and enabled STC to purchase 150 acres of land in Fort Pierce, Florida, bringing to life the dream of a permanent sanctuary where chimpanzees rescued from laboratories, entertainment, and the pet trade could live out their lives in peace.

The first chimp residents arrived in 2001. Then, in 2002, Save the Chimps rescued 266 chimpanzees from the Coulston Foundation in Alamogordo, New Mexico, a biomedical research laboratory with the worst record of any lab in the history of the Animal Welfare Act. Many of these chimpanzees were living alone in concrete cells.

Save the Chimps purchased the infamous lab, renovated it, and began the long and complex process of creating compatible social groups and transporting the chimpanzees to their new home in Florida through the Great Chimpanzee Migration. Over 250 retired chimpanzees now live in large family groups on 12 separate three-acre islands, where they receive three fresh meals daily, first-rate medical care, and a variety of activities in an enriched environment.

The Incredible Story of the World’s Largest Chimpanzee Sanctuary

Narrated by Advisory Council Member, Academy Award Winner, and chimpanzee advocate Anjelica Huston.

Chimpanzees endured electric shock, extreme G-forces, and challenging physical conditions

Chimpanzees were used in the U.S. space program for testing equipment and survivability starting in the late 1950s. For the next four decades, they and their descendants became biomedical research test subjects, used for space-related experimentation, disease research, toxicology experiments, experimental surgeries, and breeding. Learn about Ham, the first ape in space.

Save the Chimps was founded to provide a home for chimpanzees once used by the U.S. Air Force for research purposes. When you symbolically adopt Garfield and Jennifer, both former Air Force chimps, your donation will provide a full week of complete care for them.

75% of chimps in captivity in the U.S. have lived or are still living in biomedical research laboratories

Research on chimpanzees began in the 1920s and expanded to a peak in the 1990s with as many as 1,500 chimpanzees living in at least 11 different private or government labs in the U.S. There has been modest decline to about 750, as a number of them have been transferred to sanctuaries. Read more on chimpanzees in laboratories. View a timeline of the retirement of chimps in research.

View photos of what life was like inside the Coulston Foundation.

You can symbolically adopt Bobby, Elway, Jaybee, Pumpkin, Rufus, or Scarlett – all chimps used in research – to support their care at Save the Chimps.

It seems every time you turn on the TV these days, there’s a chimpanzee on the screen – not a wild chimpanzee enjoying life in the forest, but a captive chimpanzee dressed up for a commercial, or playing roles on television shows. Local stores are likewise full of pictures of “smiling” chimps on birthday cards and calendars. To most people, the chimpanzees look happy. It all seems like harmless fun. What most people don’t know is that chimpanzees used in entertainment suffer for their trade. Learn more about chimpanzees in the entertainment industry.

Make a symbolic adoption of Terry who was saved from the entertainment industry.

Save the Chimps often gets asked how someone might obtain a baby chimpanzee of their own as a pet. Partly due to the use of baby chimpanzees in entertainment, some people think that having a chimpanzee as a pet would be a wonderful idea, and most people interested in having a chimp genuinely care about chimps. But chimpanzees do not make good pets. Keeping a chimpanzee as a pet is not a rewarding experience for the chimpanzee or the humans. It is a journey that begins with the separation of the baby from its mother and often ends with the chimp in solitary confinement for over 40 years. Learn more about why chimpanzees don’t make good pets.

You can make a symbolic adoption of April – a former pet who now lives safely at Save the Chimps.