Monday, June 10, 2013

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:

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