April 24 is World Day for Laboratory Animals, a time for us to remember our residents’ past and celebrate their future.

Many of our chimpanzee residents spent years, even decades, inside laboratories. The Coulston Foundation was a biomedical research lab in New Mexico with numerous Animal Welfare Act violations. There, chimpanzees lived alone in windowless cages, never knowing anything but concrete and steel. In 2002, Save the Chimps rescued 266 chimpanzees owned by the Coulston Foundation. It remains the single largest rescue of chimpanzees in history, decreasing the number of chimps in research by 20 percent at that time.

Our sanctuary opened up a whole new world of grass and sun and stars to these chimpanzees! In honor of World Day for Laboratory Animals, we would like to share some great moments from when we were able to release former laboratory chimps onto their three-acre island home for the first time, along with a story of one special chimp.

Moesha is one of those chimps who made the journey to Florida during the Great Chimpanzee Migration from the Coulston Foundation, where she was born on August 14, 1997. When Save the Chimps acquired Coulston in 2002, Moesha was one of more than 40 chimps who were “out on loan” to other laboratories. When we gained custody of Moesha, she was pale, thin, balding, and suffering from extreme anxiety. She often screamed, rocked, and clung desperately to blankets for comfort. What she needed for comfort was other chimps! We immediately introduced her to another female, Alari, who became her best friend. Overtime, she was introduced to other chimps, both male and female, who became her family.

Often chimpanzees from laboratories have never experienced the outdoors, so naturally they are a little apprehensive when they have their first opportunity to venture into the open. When she arrived at the sanctuary in 2011, staff knew Moesha as a shy and timid chimp. She surprised us all! She was the first in her family to explore her expansive island, even climbing to the top of the structures to take in the view of the surrounding islands. (You can spot her doing just that in the video below at 0:55.) She walked all the way out onto the island, full of confidence, and pioneered the way for other chimps in her family to follow suit.

Today, she has become a high-ranking female in Tapioca’s family, one of the most rambunctious groups at Save the Chimps. She is sassy, confident, and enjoying life! Her best friend – and partner in crime – is still Alari, the chimp she was introduced to all those years ago.

Each milestone experienced by our chimpanzee residents is made possible by our supporters. Please give today in honor of Moesha and all of our residents who came to sanctuary from laboratories.

Take a look at this video compilation of our residents — including Moesha — going outside, many for the first time in their lives >>

P.S. Our chimpanzee residents require care every single day. We provide nutritious food, individualized veterinary care, and an enriched environment where the chimps can thrive in the company of family members. Your generosity helps to ensure their permanent retirement and lifelong care.