There is a chimpanzee housing crisis in the United States. In the late 80s, a breeding program was initiated for laboratory chimpanzees, and it was very successful – lots of babies. Now the use of chimpanzees as research subjects is declining (thankfully), and there are a lot of unwanted chimpanzees. Legislation for a National Chimpanzee Research Retirement System was passed that mandated federal and private funding to create sanctuaries for these animals, but little money has been forthcoming. I learned about all this in an article by Carole Noon, and in the article she discussed a number of instances where chimpanzees have been sent to islands to live the rest of their lives free from humans. Visits to the islands years after they were first populated have revealed that the chimpanzee colonies have been highly successful. At first, this sounds almost cruel, sending them off to islands. But I think it’s amazing and perhaps the best thing that can be done for them – freedom. It is humbling to be reminded that they don’t need us. However, in the meantime, without funding to organize any system to let these animals live the rest of their lives in dignity, most are being sent to a USDA laboratory that has on multiple occasions been charged for violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

Photo of Simon the chimpanzee by owenbooth. Apparently, Simon “gets along very well with all of the females in the group but keeps an eye out as to not offend the dominant male.”