A few years ago, my Dad (Eddie) became obsessed with monkeys. He is fascinated by how similar monkeys are to humans and has spent countless hours researching them and watching videos on Youtube. Today, Eddie has found a way to work along side the animals that he has grown to love by volunteering at Save the Chimps in St. Lucie County, Florida.
Save the Chimps
For my birthday, we went to dinner at a local Vero Beach restaurant where Save the Chimps was hosting a fundraiser. My mom (Melody) bought some raffle tickets and ended up winning a tour of the Save the Chimps sanctuary. In December, Melody, Eddie, Blake (my husband), and I finally had a chance to take our tour. It was very impressive, to say the least. I had no idea that this sanctuary was so large and the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes. I can see why volunteering is so important! With the help of volunteers, all of the money donated to Save the Chimps goes directly to care of the chimpanzees instead of paying for a large staff.
Save the Chimps is a non-profit organization established in 1997 by Carole Noon. Carole wanted to create a sanctuary for chimpanzees rescued from research labs, the entertainment industry, and the pet trade. Because of this, “speaking out for them” became Save the Chimps’ ultimate goal. When the chimpanzees used in the Air Force’s space exploration (Space Chimps or “Astrochimps”) were given to a biomedical research facility, Carole sued and gained custody of the 21 chimps. Although these Space Chimps were the first to call this St. Lucie County sanctuary home, many more would follow.
Today, Save the Chimps is the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in the world, home to more than 250 chimps. The property totals 150 acres and has 12 three acre islands where the chimpanzees live and have room to roam. Save the Chimps is run by volunteers and a small number of staff. These people interact with the chimps every day and really get to know them and their personalities, making it easy to notice any changes in behavior. Save the Chimps plans to be in business until there are no more chimpanzees to rescue and rehabilitate.
Give To The Cause
Save the Chimps relies entirely on donations, so every little bit counts! All donations go toward the medical care, food, and enrichment activities for the chimpanzees and maintaining their home islands.
For $300, you can symbolically adopt a chimp. On the Save the Chimps website, read different chimpanzee’s biographies to pick which one to sponsor. Your $300 will provide one week of care for that chimp. In return, you will receive a certificate plus a biography, picture, and update on the chimpanzee you adopted.
Become a Save the Chimps member. For $50, you will gain access to Member Day (taking place in the Spring and Fall), provide care, and receive Friday e-cards plus updates on the chimps.
Shop on the Save the Chimps website for clothes, car accessories, calendars, chimp art, and books. All of the money from these purchases goes towards the chimpanzee’s care.
Save the Chimps relies heavily on volunteers. You must be a member to volunteer and go through an application process. If selected, you will help around the sanctuary. Your daily task may be to care for the grounds or prepare food in the kitchen.
Volunteers also set up the chimpanzee’s enrichment activities, meant to engage the chimp’s brain. These can be putting fruit roll ups inside of magazines so that the chimps have to flip through it, freezing food inside of a Kong toy, putting raisins inside of plastic boards, or stuffing sunflower seeds into tennis balls. All of these enrichment activities allow the chimp and opportunity to forage, just as they would in their natural habitat.
First Part Of Our Tour
Monica Naranjo took us on our tour around the Save the Chimps sanctuary. We began in the kitchen, getting to see the volunteers at work. They were busy preparing lunch for the chimpanzees. You would not believe how much these animals eat! Afterwards, we went to the office building, once Carole Noon’s house. She is the only person to ever live at the sanctuary. We watched a video about Save the Chimps and bought some Save the Chimps gear.
Our next stop was to see the special needs chimpanzees, those who need a little more space or do not get along with others. They have separate housing adjacent to the main building, giving people coming and going an opportunity to speak to the chimpanzees. Volunteers congregate here on their lunch breaks, and after spending some time watching the chimps, I can see why. They are very friendly and wanted all of our attention. Tickle sticks are used to play with the chimps, since you cannot get close to them (you must stand at least three feet back at all times). A tickle stick is essentially a piece of rubber hose. The special needs chimpanzees are usually the ones who make the chimp art that you can buy from Save the Chimps’ website.
Second Part Of The Tour
We spent the remainder of our time visiting the chimpanzee islands. Each island has its own name and a family of chimpanzees that share similar characteristics. The staff knows all of the chimp’s names, likes, dislikes, and diet; it is really impressive. A main building provides shelter and a feeding area for the chimps. We enjoyed getting to see these animals run around and play. Some banged toys around to get our attention while others were too busy roaming around to notice us.
Our favorite chimpanzee was Arthur. He was rescued from the entertainment industry. Arthur has a fascination with people’s bellies and will pat his belly in hopes that you will show him yours. After Blake raised his shirt to show Arthur his belly, Arthur was in love. Every time Blake would life up his shirt, Arthur would get incredibly excited and make the happiest noises. Interacting with Arthur was definitely the highlight of our day.
I want to be a chimpanzee! The Save the Chimps property is absolutely beautiful and impeccably maintained. The chimps are very well taken care of and live a great life. I am so proud of my Dad for taking an interest in such an awesome cause.
Chimpanzees live on islands; meaning there are only small bodies of water separating us from them. Since chimpanzees do not swim and it is their instinct to avoid water due to animals, that is all it takes to keep them on the islands. It seems so simple and it works! The chimps do not need bars and fences, they just need space and a chance.
Save the Chimps uses 1,300 bananas a day.
It costs $16,000 a year to properly care for a chimpanzee.
Visit the Save the Chimps website to read biographies on all of their chimpanzees!
Save the Chimps is not open to the public. Unless you are a registered volunteer, Member Days are the only time when non-staff may enter this sanctuary. Humans and chimpanzees never come in contact with each other.
Taylor Pittman Hardy wrote this article.
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