Save the Chimps, the world’s largest privately funded sanctuary for retired chimpanzees, recently hosted the 6th Annual South Florida Primatology Meeting at its Sanctuary in Fort Pierce as well as at the Fenn Center at Indian River State College. In attendance were scientists, primatologists, primate care technicians, students and Save the Chimps volunteers. The keynote lecture was presented by David Morgan, co-director of the Goualougo Triangle Ape Project and research fellow of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes at Lincoln Park Zoo.
The South Florida Primatology Meeting began in 2014 to build a local network of primatologists, primate care technicians, students, and those interested in the study, care, welfare, and preservation of primates. “This is a passionate group of professionals, care technicians and students who are all interested in fostering discussion, exploring current research and sharing best practices in primate study and care,” stated Dr. Andrew Halloran, organizer of the conference. Dr. Halloran is Director of Chimpanzee Behavior and Care at Save the Chimps, research affiliate with the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone as well as the founder of the Tonkolili Chimpanzee Project in Central Sierra Leone which seeks to find sustainable solutions to chimpanzee conservation through economic empowerment of local villages.
The network also aims to create a collegial network of support for those working in primate related fields. In addition to local practitioners and academics, the Executive Director and several staff from Chimp Haven attended the conference—Chimp Haven is the world’s largest publicly funded sanctuary for chimpanzees located outside Shreveport, Louisiana.
Amy Fultz, co-founder of Chimp Haven and its Director of Behavior, Research and Training, participated in a panel discussion on care for captive chimpanzees along with Dr. Tina Cloutier-Barbour Primate Curator at Lion Country Safari, Caroline Griffis of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance, Save the Chimps Associate Veterinarian Dr. Kelsey McClure and Dr. Valerie Kirk, Save the Chimps Director of Veterinary Care.
“Sharing best practices amongst our sanctuary staff is key to being able to give our resident chimpanzees the best care possible,” added Dr. Shelly Lakly, Executive Director of Save the Chimps. In fact, earlier this winter, the senior staff of Save the Chimps visited Chimp Haven to see their facility and best practices in action. “Getting to share information and practices is invaluable – and the support we can give each other is unparalleled – there’s no one else we can turn to except each other when it comes to caring for large family groups of rescued chimpanzees,” added Dr. Lakly.
Over the years, the annual meeting has been held at Lynn University, Lion Country Safari, Brevard Zoo, Dumond Conservancy / Monkey Jungle – however this the first time it was being held at Save the Chimps. “We are so proud of our care technicians and our staff, and it was a great opportunity to showcase the work we are doing to care for 233 resident chimpanzees,” added Dr. Halloran. The event was supported in part by Summer Crush Winery.
A Legacy of Caring
Since its founding in 1997 by Primatologist Dr. Carole Noon, the sanctuary has successfully retired 333 chimpanzees from unsuitable living conditions, allowing them to live out their days in a safe, secure, and vibrantly social community alongside their fellow chimpanzees. The retired chimps 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. For more information or to donate your time or treasure, visit savethechimps.org.