The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:
With the relocation of two chimps in early December, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has moved all the animals that had been living at the now-closed Wildlife Waystation in Los Angeles County. These two join eight other chimps moved last month to Chimp Haven, located near Shreveport, Louisiana.
This final move concludes CDFW’s involvement in the former animal sanctuary that closed suddenly in 2019. The Wildlife Waystation had operated since the late 1970s as a home for thousands of animals that were abused, abandoned and orphaned. But financial difficulties led to the facility shutting down even though almost 500 animals were still depending on care. As the state agency that regulates sanctuaries and refuges, CDFW stepped in to supervise efforts to find new accredited homes for the wide variety of animals left at the facility. The 42 chimps stranded at Wildlife Waystation proved especially difficult to rehome.
“It was actually relatively easy to find homes for lions, tigers, bears, jaguars, all sorts of primates, birds and reptiles,” said CDFW Regional Manager Ed Pert. “Chimpanzees are a difficult species to rehome. After it became illegal to do medical research on chimpanzees in 2015, U.S research facilities have been closing down or rehoming them. There hasn’t been enough space at good facilities to take them all in. “
A vast majority of the chimps living at the Wildlife Waystation came from a biomedical lab in New York state that shut down in the late 1990s. The chimps have since been moved to sanctuaries in Washington, Florida, Louisiana and Texas.
The decision by the state to step in was greatly appreciated by people who had spent many years attempting to provide good care for the animals.
“This is not typically what CDFW does,” said Pert. “We had to find unique ways to do things that needed to happen quickly and on an emergency ongoing basis, like buy food for lions, tigers and bears, and get a contract to have water delivered.”
“CDFW covered all the veterinary, health care and food expenses for the animals,” said former Wildlife Waystation Director Deanna Armbruster. “They helped us with security, and other needs from electricity, to heat and water.”
Steady fundraising the past three years also made the relocation of the chimps a possibility. CDFW relied on the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA) to gather donations and secure new chimp living arrangements around the country.
“There were months where we would talk to CDFW and say ‘do we have enough funds to keep these chimps fed for another month?’ It was terrifying,” said NAPSA Program Director Erika Fleury. “We’ve had over $4 million raised, and thousands of donors helping us to make this happen.”