Save the Chimps, Inc. was established in 1997 by our late 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. Most of the Air Force chimpanzees, who were survivors and descendants of chimpanzees captured from the wild for the space program, were sent to the Coulston Foundation in Alamogordo, NM, a biomedical research lab with multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Save the Chimps sued the Air Force on behalf of the chimpanzees and gained permanent custody of 21 chimps.
A generous donation by Jon Stryker of the Arcus Foundation enabled Save the Chimps to purchase 190 acres in Fort Pierce, Florida. A three-acre island, complete with hills and climbing structures as well as a hurricane-proof chimp house, was constructed for the chimpanzees. Not long after the Air Force chimpanzees arrived, seven other chimpanzees from the pet and entertainment industries were also rescued. With more chimps in need, Dr. Noon expected that Save the Chimps would slowly grow.
But an unexpected event rapidly expanded the scope of Save the Chimps overnight.
Rescuing the Coulston Foundation Chimps
In 2002, the Coulston Foundation was on the verge of bankruptcy. Dr. Frederick Coulston contacted Save the Chimps and offered to sell the laboratory land and buildings, and donate 266 chimpanzees. Save the Chimps received an unprecedented grant of $3.7 million from the Arcus Foundation to purchase the laboratory. Additional funding from the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, Doris Day Animal League, Friends of Washoe, In Defense of Animals, New England Anti-Vivisection Society, and others made this the single largest rescue effort ever on behalf of captive chimpanzees. On September 16, 2002, Save the Chimps took over the Coulston Foundation, becoming the world’s largest chimpanzee sanctuary.
Dr. Noon and her staff modified the stark lab into a healthier and happier environment for the chimpanzees. Chimpanzees who had lived alone or in very small groups for decades now had the opportunity to become part of large chimpanzee families. At the same time, an enormous construction project commenced in Florida to build eleven more islands and houses: a city for 300 chimpanzees.
The rescue of these chimpanzees transitioned into the “Great Chimpanzee Migration,” Save the Chimps’ nine-year effort to relocate the chimpanzees from the former lab to their island homes in sunny Florida. A custom trailer was made to transport ten chimpanzees at a time to the sanctuary in Florida. On December 14, 2011, the Great Chimpanzee Migration ended and the final group of Coulston chimps were released onto their new island home. Since its founding, Save the Chimps has provided sanctuary to over 330 chimpanzees in need.