If you watched movies growing up, chances are that you’ve seen the work of animal actors, such as chimps, orangutans, and gorillas. If you use medication or have had vaccines, you can be certain that they’ve been tested on rabbits, mice, monkeys, and yes, apes.
The history of experimentation on animals, including that of apes is shocking, grisly, and heartbreaking. Since the 1920’s chimpanzees have been used in the United States for behavioral and biomedical research. They have also been largely used in the entertainment industry and have been victims of the pet trade.
For these and other purposes, baby chimps were ripped away from their mothers and taken from the freedom of the wild to live in captivity, the living conditions horrendous, and the treatment and abuse, unspeakable.
In the late 1950’s chimps were used by NASA and the United States Air Force as part of the spaceflight program, these chimps were subjected to arduous space-related physical tests, and were punished with electric shock when they didn’t perform as expected.
Though the first man to be rocketed into space, and to land on the moon, and all of the astronauts to follow, were celebrated, the chimps whose contributions made these things possible were not shown the appreciation they much deserved. Instead, most were later transferred to laboratories where they were used for biomedical research. The names and contributions of Ham, Enos, Minnie, and other chimpanzees used in the program are largely unfamiliar to the public, and are briefly cited or left unmentioned in the history books. (“Chimps in Space,” Save the Chimps, Inc.)
Chimps used in biomedical research suffer hundreds of biopsies and undergo invasive life-threatening procedures. The same chimps are used over and over again until they succumb to death or are no longer useful to the lab. In the entertainment industry and the pet trade, chimps are forced to live in captivity in unnatural environments, and sometimes in inhumane conditions.
Thankfully, in 2001, through the hard work, dedication, and leadership of remarkable people such as Dr. Carole Noone, founder of “Save the Chimps,” the largest chimp sanctuary in the U.S, 21 chimps, including some of the original survivors of the NASA and U.S. Air Force experiments, were rescued and taken to their permanent home, a 150 acre sanctuary with a three acre island home in Fort Pierce, Florida.
It is here where they could finally begin the process of recovering from physical and psychological abuse, and where they could live without fear, or pain. Since then, “Save the Chimps” has rescued many chimpanzees from research laboratories, and the entertainment and pet trade. Currently, nearly 300 chimps call the sanctuary home. (Meet the Chimps)
Other amazing sanctuaries dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating apes are, The Center for Great Apes, Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, Chimp Haven, Primate Rescue Center, and Chimps, Inc. Also, this article could not be complete without mentioning the contributions of primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall, whose work has largely centered on the cause of preserving great apes and their natural habitats (The Jane Goodall Institute).
Please, visit the web pages provided and consider supporting these life-saving sanctuaries by donating to their cause. Your support can help them rescue, rehabilitate, and care for more extraordinary chimpanzees, orangutans, and other amazing primates.
For more information on Primate Sanctuaries please follow the link provided: