Thursday, June 20, 2013

How many ways can Savage-Rumbaugh say scofflaw?

Federal inspectors have officially warned the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary (aka Great Ape Trust, aka Bonobo Hope) to stop contact between their bonobos and the public, as we reported in April. And yet they persist, deliberately flaunting ape management practices that would keep bonobo Teco and humans safe and healthy.

This video of Teco celebrating a "birthday party" in free and direct contact with humans -- with small children present -- was posted on Facebook. Granted, the adults at the party may be volunteers, as distinct from "the public," but, really, it's a crying shame that Sue Savage-Rumbaugh and other IPLS management simply do not understand the risks of disease transmission, especially between children and apes. And they evidently scorn the idea of letting Teco grow up as a bonobo, and not as a plaything for IPLS management, staff, volunteers, and their children.

A "scofflaw" is a person who intentionally and repeatedly flouts the law. This repeated practice at IPLS may not be in violation of U.S. or state law but, as we've seen, the practices at IPLS repeatedly flout the "law" of common sense, good judgement, and federal inspection directives.

Oh, and just in case someone pulls that video off of Facebook, here's a screengrab from this morning...

Monday, June 10, 2013

Gorilla Foundation looks for transport cages, raises hopes for Ndume

Regular blog readers will know that I’ve been on the side of former caregivers who argue that gorilla Ndume deserves a chance at a decent life – away from his isolation under the “care” of Penny Patterson and The Gorilla Foundation. (See here and here and here.) We’ve been urging Cincinnati Zoo, Ndume’s owner, to take him back, and the American Zoological Association’s recent draft animal management plan for gorillas made that recommendation.

Is it actually happening? This note popped up today on Facebook.

Christina Herron is one of the two Gorilla Foundation caregivers who stayed on after the mass exodus of staff. Her note, posted on the Gorilla SSP Facebook page says: "Gorilla Transport cages. Does anyone have a company preference for quality gorilla transport cages? The sanctuary (sic) I work at is looking to update ours, but the company previously used is no longer in business. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!"

They may finally be moving Koko to Maui – or maybe, just maybe, Ndume is about to get a life.

Sheppersons make the right choice: pet chimps will go to Houston Zoo

UPDATE: The chimps arrived at Houston Zoo on October 29. Yay!
It is so rare -- and doubly wonderful -- when we have good news to report. And today started with GREAT news, thanks to Houston Zoo, Lincoln Park Zoo and soon-to-be-former chimp owners Curtis and Bea Shepperson.

In February, I blogged about the conundrum facing the Sheppersons, as they were ordered to find a new home for four unpermitted chimps. Here is the press release announcing a win-win-win!

Pet Chimpanzees Will Relocate to Houston Zoo – Just in Time

Lincoln Park Zoo’s Project ChimpCARE facilitated move

(Chicago – June 10, 2013) Six chimpanzees currently living at a residence in Mechanicsville, Va., will find a new home at Houston Zoo later this year, thanks to long-running efforts by Lincoln Park Zoo’s Project ChimpCARE, Houston Zoo, and Curtis and Bea Shepperson, the chimps’ current owners.

The news comes ahead of a county-issued June 23 deadline to relocate four of the chimps and ensures a bright future for the animals, as they will be able to remain together as a family unit in an accredited zoo.  The Sheppersons had been under pressure from local officials to relocate the chimpanzees because of a recent escape and lack of proper licenses. No suitable placement options were available – until now.

“This is an extremely positive resolution for everyone involved, but most of all for the chimpanzees themselves,” said Dr. Steve Ross, head of Lincoln Park Zoo’s Project ChimpCARE and chairman of the chimpanzee Species Survival Plan (SSP), who first began working with the Sheppersons in 2010. “Keeping the chimps together in their social group is unquestionably the best move for their wellbeing, and the animals are now poised to receive the lifetime care they deserve. This outcome is a testament to what good can come from cooperation by people on all sides of an issue.”

That cooperation is at the heart of Project ChimpCARE, whose goal is to provide suitable housing for all of the some 2,200 chimpanzees living in the U.S. by promoting collaboration between accredited institutions and private owners like the Sheppersons.

“We have looked after these chimpanzees for most of their lives, and we will miss them dearly when they go,” said Curtis Shepperson. “But, we have always wanted what is best for them, and sending all six chimpanzees as a complete group to Houston Zoo is just that.”

This is the second time Project ChimpCARE and Houston Zoo have collaborated.  In 2009, ten chimpanzees took up residence in Houston’s new exhibit after years working in the entertainment industry; the chimps have flourished there.

“We are delighted to offer a home to this troop,” said Beth Schaefer, Houston Zoo’s Curator of Primates and Carnivores. “Our proven experience with privately-owned chimps puts us in a unique position to provide the best possible care for these animals. Our chimp habitat is the newest in the nation and is widely regarded as one of the world’s pre-eminent facilities.”

The move is expected to take place later this year, pending veterinary examinations, and logistical details are still under development. But everyone involved agrees this is the long-awaited happy ending to a complicated and emotionally-charged story.

For more information about Lincoln Park Zoo’s Project ChimpCARE visit: