Project Chimps Weekend + Vlog Recap
Happy Fri-YAY! I’m SO excited to be writing this post because I had an incredible opportunity over the weekend to take part in a project that is near and dear to my heart with the Humane Society of the United States with my aunt! Project Chimps is a really unique humanitarian program that focuses on the release of chimpanzees from animal testing facilities across the United States. I had no idea the extend of the animal testing done on these animals (I naively tend to think of animal testing as bunnies, rats and smaller rodents – which still happen – but not chimps). I was given the chance to visit their location in Georgia, view some of the newly released chimps in their new sanctuary and learn about the program from their directors. Let’s dive more into this.
Project Chimps Weekend + Vlog Recap
What Is Project Chimps?
The mission of Project Chimps is to provide exemplary lifelong care to chimps that have been retired from animal research. It even has a stamp of approval from Jane Goodall, herself.
“Congratulations to the Project Chimps team and its partners on this historic achievement for chimpanzees. I am 100% in support, and am so glad this dream is coming true.”
– Dr. Jane Goodall
Currently, there are 59 chimpanzees that live at the Project Chimps sanctuary, but they are growing quickly and intend to continue to expand to over 200 chimpanzees on location. With over 6 acres of land stretching through the Georgia wilderness, it’s the perfect, quiet location to house these retired chimps. They are able to forage, climb and play with no caging overhead. They have plans to continue to expand the land to house more chimps and give them even more room to interact with each other and get back in touch with who they truly are.
Project Chimps is relatively new in the sanctuary world – having only opened their doors in 2016. This HSUS affiliated program had key donors help get them off the ground such as: Kat Von D, Rachael Ray, and Judy Greer. “For the research industry, it’s the end of an era, but for these chimpanzees, it’s just the beginning”.
What Did I Do At Project Chimps?
I was invited along on this trip to view the location of Project Chimps, meet some of their amazing animals and learn more about what they are currently doing and plan to do in the future. It was a truly educational experience.
To begin, we were taken into the private facility where we were able to view the beautiful grounds of Project Chimps. Rolling hills, tall trees and other natural infrastructures were the perfect backdrop to the facilities. We were able to get a tour of all the villas housing the animals, view their kitchens and enrichment centers and see the habitats that the chimps play in.
My favorite part, however, was the ability to see some of their released chimps up close (but not too close, of course, they are still wild animals and I wouldn’t blame them for a mistrust of humans). They are smaller than I expected, and so cute! I learned about how smart they are: chimps can get up to a 6th grade level in intelligence. They need constant enrichment or they try to break out of their cages by watching their handlers. They love watching movies, making friends, playing with dolls. They dance to music and play games with their trainers. My heart broke when I realized one of the reasons the female chimps latch on to dolls so much is because they had their babies taken away from them at breeding facilities. As a soon-to-be mama, that hit me pretty hard. They understand what is happening and they mourn those lost babies, even now, even if it’s been years. As an animal advocate, I struggle to understand how anyone can be cruel to any type of living creature. They have their own personalities and you can just tell they know exactly what is going on when you look in their eyes. And as I learned, some of these chimps are in their 50s and 60s, and they’ve never been outside of a research lab before. Project Chimps is providing them the opportunity to live the rest of their lives with dignity, and exactly as a chimp should.
How Can I Become Involved With Project Chimps?
There are LOTS of ways to become involved with Project Chimps. They are, of course, always looking for monetary donations to help aid them in their quest to provide the best care possible for these chimps. There are several ways to do this: one off donations, sponsoring a chimp, or shopping the amazon wish list! It costs roughly $22,000 a year to provide care for just ONE chimp, so every penny counts. I love the idea of shopping off the amazon wish list if you don’t have an extra $22K laying around. You can choose which items you send, fr0m enrichment activities to snacks to maintenance tools. These are all really good ways to get involved if you don’t live nearby or don’t have extra time to volunteer.
If you want to volunteer, and happen to live near the sanctuary, there are some ways you can help there as well! They are always looking for more volunteers to help at the sanctuary from cutting veggies in the kitchen, to organizing the main office, to building chimp enrichment activities. Their director likes to ask her volunteers “what is your superpower?” because chances are – no matter what you are good at, they’ll be able to use it.
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Overall, my experience was so, so positive this past weekend. I feel very lucky that I was able to experience such a fabulous, education-filled day at Project Chimps. I’m already adding things to my amazon cart to send their way – and hope to have a few more collaborations with them up my sleeve in the future!!
Have you ever heard of Project Chimps? What humanitarian projects are close to your heart? Let me know in the comments below!