It’s not often such a diverse bunch of people come together for a cause, but the Windy Oaks chimps have brought animal activists, welfare advocates, experts, professionals and pet owners together in agreement that the chimps should remain where they are – all six of them.
Curtis Shepperson, owner at Windy Oaks farm, spent $250,000 to provide safe and secure living quarters for the chimps, which live as a family unit. The strength and security of the enclosure meets all federal and state requirements. In fact, they have gone above and beyond what is required. Apparently, this is a local “power” issue since a local permit keeping two of the six chimps legal could easily be expanded to cover the other four chimps.
Sanctuaries across the country capable of taking chimps are full – full with mostly chimpanzees retired from research facilities. The necessary funds to keep the chimps at Windy Oaks has been owner supported, yet somehow, local officials think they can find a sanctuary to take the four. This would divide an established group of chimps, place financial stress on a sanctuary if one could even be found with room to take four chimps. This hardly seems an acceptable solution when a simple permit upgrade would leave the chimp family intact, with owner support and support of many professionals in the field.
An ABC 12 newscast concerning the chimps’ fate was short, without time to address many facts and background facts about the issue surrounding the Windy Oaks chimps. A meeting is scheduled for May 8, 2013, at the Hanover County Administration Building.
Here is part of their story, from the “Chimps Like Us” Facebook page:
“When Windy Oaks was started, the Shepperson's got an exotic animal permit from HC that specified TWO things, 1) One time only application required-marked CLEARLY on the top of the page. It was handwritten in black marker.
2) It showed TWO common chimpanzees or pan troglodytes.
The Shepperson's had Toby and Sierra since they were infants. They were raised alongside their own children. They were given a (at the time) state of the art chimphouse and enclosure as they grew older. It is less than 50 feet from the home and people they have known all their lives.
Over the course of years, the Shepperson's had the opportunity to rescue Chaos from a Hollywood trainer, who used to beat him with a stick to make him perform. They also found themselves in a situation for which there was no easy answer when a breeder asked them to house three females on a temporary basis and then that breeder lost their permits to have chimps. The girls, Tanzy, Kiera and Kenya were abandoned on the property. It's not as if the Shepperson's could call local animal control and say, "Hey a person dumped three chimps..."
They did what they could, they immediately had the males vasectomized (to prevent breeding) and applied with the feds and the state for the proper permits (remember the county permit was marked "one time only", leading the Shepperson's to believe they did not NEED to reapply. The thinking was, once you had the county exotic permit, you had it.
All was well for more than a dozen years, but in late 2010 a painter left a gate open and Toby and Chaos went walkabout. Chaos was recapture right away, returned to the chimphouse without incident. When an attempt to dart Toby was made, the dart bounced off his thigh, scaring him and sending him into the woods at dusk. The Shepperson's live on 30+ acres, with a few neighbors in the area. It was dusk, Toby went into the woods and bedded down for the night. At daybreak he accidently wandered to a neighbors house instead of finding his way home. He was in the driveway when the homeowner saw him and called the sheriff. The sheriff called the Shepperson's and while a deputy supervised, Mr. Shepperson and his son darted Toby and returned him to Windy Oaks. No one came in contact with the chimps and no one was hurt.
After this event, a myriad of things began to happen. HC suddenly decided that since Windy Oaks didn't have a LOCAL PERMIT (never mind all the federal and state permits are in order) for six chimps, four of them would have to go. The Shepperson's have spent two years trying to rehome four of the chimps.”
There’s more to this sad story, small town politics included, yet it is clear to all but a few in power that there is no need to euthanize any of the chimps or even separate the family. If you would like to learn more or offer your support, visit Chimps Like Us on Facebook. Petitions are being circulated locally.