Is Save the Chimps open to the public?
No. The sanctuary is open to visitors by prearranged appointment only or on member days. We do have two Member Days per year in which donors at the $50 level and above may sign up to receive a guided tour of the sanctuary. We also have one invitation-only on-site event per year for members of our Caregiver Society. You can also participate in our annual Chimpathon 10k race. For more information on our giving levels and benefits please visit Donate.
Can captive chimpanzees be released back into the wild?
Captive chimpanzees in the United States cannot be released back to the wild for multiple reasons:
- Chimpanzees must learn from their elders how to survive in the forest—what to eat, where and how to find food and water, how to make tools, how to avoid predators, etc.–they cannot survive based on “instinct.” Captive chimps in the US have been denied the opportunity to learn the skills needed to live independently. They are completely dependent upon us for their survival.
- There are at least four subspecies of chimpanzees in Africa, each with subtle but distinguishing physical and genetic characteristics. Chimpanzees in the US were bred indiscriminately, not based on subspecies. If these chimps were released into the wild it could disrupt the genetics of current populations.
- Captive chimps from the US could introduce diseases to wild populations, potentially wiping out thousands of chimpanzees.
- Chimpanzee habitat is rapidly disappearing—even if US chimps could be released into the wild, there is little wild for them to go to.
The only captive populations currently believed to be potential candidates for reintroduction into the wild are chimps living in African sanctuaries—victims of the bushmeat trade whose general origins are known and who may have opportunities to acclimate to the forest and learn survival skills over a long period of time.
Does Save the Chimps breed chimps?
No, we do not deliberately breed the chimps. However, birth control is never 100% guaranteed, and we have had a few accidental births due to failed vasectomies. Our last accidental birth was in 2007.
Why don’t you breed? Aren’t chimpanzees endangered?
Although chimpanzees are indeed an endangered species, professional sanctuaries do not deliberately breed their residents. Sanctuaries exist solely to provide a permanent home for individuals (chimpanzees or members of other species) who have been mistreated or kept inappropriately in some way—used in biomedical research, kept as pets, orphaned due to poaching, used in the entertainment industry, etc.–and who need a safe, enriched place to live out their lives. Sanctuaries are nonprofit organizations with limited space and resources. If a sanctuary breeds, then the space and resources that could be used to provide a home to an individual in need are taken up by the babies born at the sanctuary. Additionally, chimps are long-lived; a baby chimp is a 50+ year commitment.
Some sanctuaries in range countries may practice reversible birth control, to keep open the option of release back into the wild. However, chimps in the US are not candidates for release for a number of reasons. Chimps need to learn from their elders how to survive in the wild—what to eat, how to obtain food, where water sources are located, how to avoid predators, etc. Chimps born in captivity do not have this opportunity, and would not instinctively know how to survive.
They may also harbor pathogens that could decimate wild populations, and may have genetic differences that could have unforeseen negative consequences. (There are several subspecies of chimpanzees across Africa, and most US chimps were bred indiscriminately, not according to subspecies.
Where is Save the Chimps located?
Save the Chimps is located in Fort Pierce, Florida . Fort Pierce is on the Atlantic coast about one hour north of West Palm Beach.
How is Save the Chimps funded?
Save the Chimps is entirely funded through donations from individuals like you and private foundations.
Is Save the Chimps government funded?
No, Save the Chimps does not currently receive government funding.
Does Save the Chimps have a veterinarian?
Yes, we employ two full-time veterinarians on staff, as well as two full-time and one part-time veterinary technician.
How are the chimps treated medically?
It depends on the severity of the illness. Most chimps are treated with oral medication when needed. We simply mix the medicine in juice and they drink it. More seriously ill chimps may need injections, IV fluids, or rarely, surgery.
What kinds of illnesses do the chimpanzees get?
Chimpanzees may experience heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney failure, liver disease, and diabetes. Chimps can also get respiratory infections such as the common cold or the flu. Additionally, the chimps may also suffer from psychological illnesses, such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD.
Do the chimps ever injure each other?
Yes, the chimps can and do injure each other, just as they do in the wild. However, injuries are typically minor and heal on their own. Our veterinarians will treat more serious injuries with antibiotics, sutures, or surgery.
Why did you choose to locate the sanctuary in Florida?
The warm weather and humid climate are ideal for chimps and is similar to the climate they would experience in Africa.
What do you do if there is a hurricane in Florida?
The sanctuary in Florida was built with hurricanes in mind. The chimps’ indoor living areas are built to withstand hurricanes. If a hurricane threatens, the chimps are all locked indoors. Food, water, and other supplies are stocked. Staff members remain in each “chimp house” with the chimps (but separated from the chimps by steel caging) for the duration of the storm. We have been through several hurricanes so far, resulting in only minor damage to some solar panels. The chimps were not bothered by the storms at all!
Do you have contact with the chimps?
We do not have physical contact with the chimps because they are many times stronger than an adult human and can cause serious injury. We don’t go in the cages with them or touch them directly, unless they are under anesthesia for a physical. However, we do see, talk to, and interact with all the chimps. We know them, and they know us.
How long do chimps live?
Chimps typically live for 40-60 years. Visit our Chimp Life page to learn more about chimpanzees.
What do chimps eat and how often?
In the wild chimps eat fruit, seeds, nuts, leaves, insects, and small mammals such as monkeys or bush pigs. They spend most of their days either eating or looking for food. At Save the Chimps, we feed the chimps three meals of fresh fruits and vegetables per day, plus commercial “monkey chow” (nutritionally complete biscuits). They also get food treats in their enrichment, as well as chopped veggies, fruit, and seeds scattered on the island. In general, if humans can eat it (and like to eat it), so do chimps.
Can chimps swim?
No, chimps cannot swim. Their muscle mass and body structure makes it physically impossible for them to swim and their natural instincts are to avoid water. The lakes around their islands are therefore a natural barrier; the chimps can be contained without the use of bars and cages.
What kinds of research were the chimps used for?
Most of the chimps’ individual records do not contain specific information about the types of research they were used in. However, we do know that some of the chimps were used in pharmacological studies (to study the effects of a new drug, for example), hepatitis research, and experimental surgeries.
How do you know who can live together?
The caregivers know the chimps very well, and will suggest chimps who they think will get along well together. But in the end, we don’t know for sure until we actually open the door and introduce two chimps to each other. We do introductions under controlled conditions so we can intervene if there is an argument, but in the end it’s up to the chimps to decide if they will get along.
Do chimps make good pets?
No. Chimpanzees grow to be seven times stronger than an adult human male and can cause serious injuries, not to mention physical damage to your home and belongings. Chimps sold as pets are kidnapped from their mothers by breeders, grow up thinking they are human, and then suffer terrible sorrow and confusion when they are put in a cage because they are too dangerous for human contact. They have difficulty living with other chimps even if they do make it to a sanctuary. If you truly care about chimps, please do not acquire one as a pet.
What kind of education do I need in order to work with chimps?
It depends on the type of work you would like to do. With regards to sanctuaries, each organization has its own requirements that vary from no college degree required—just compassion, a strong work ethic, and a willingness to learn—to the requirement of an advanced degree. In general, a combination of education in biology, zoology, psychology, or anthropology, along with practical experience such as volunteer work at a sanctuary or in “the field” (in Africa) will help you reach your goal of working with chimps.
Does Save the Chimps offer internships or externships?
At this time, undergraduate internships are available only to students of Indian River State College in Fort Pierce, FL. Veterinary externships are available to veterinary students currently enrolled in veterinary school. An internship for undergraduates at other colleges and universities is in development. On-site and/or complimentary housing is not available for interns or externs.
I will be visiting your area soon. Can I come by for an afternoon for a tour or to volunteer?
Save the Chimps is closed to the public except for Member Days, our annual Caregiver Society event, or tours by invitation only. Individuals who wish to volunteer should visit our volunteer page for more information on our Volunteer Program and its requirements.
What kinds of things do the chimps need the most?
Our greatest need is always money, so no amount of donation is too small — we also can use gift cards. Please visit our donation page to donate online. Care packages may be sent to Save the Chimps, 16891 Carole Noon Lane, Fort Pierce, FL 34945.