A vital part of the Center for Great Apes’ mission is animal rescue and acceptance of former pets and entertainers. Many of the orangutans and chimpanzees at the Center have been rescued from basements, garages, tiny indoor cages, backyard pens, and other inappropriate living situations. Those who contact us about accepting or rescuing an ape are usually either the owner who can no longer care for their “pet” ape, or a government authority.
Planning and executing an animal transfer or rescue is expensive, and often the private owners surrendering their exotic pet primates don’t have the money to even pay for the transport. An animal transfer usually starts with a phone call, followed by the logistical planning of the pick-up, determining who should make the trip with the veterinarian (in order to monitor the health and safety of the orangutan or chimpanzee), getting state permits for transfer, and preparing the transport vehicle for the road. Also included in an ape transfer is the preparation of the quarantine area where the orangutans or chimpanzees will be initially cared for when they arrive at the sanctuary, and a plan for where they will live after the quarantine period, with the goal of helping them to live with others of their own species.
Exotic pet transfers and rescue situations are among our saddest “before” stories because of the unnatural living conditions the apes endure. Orangutans Kiki and Linus were exotic pets, living in separate cages in the same home. Due to years of lack of exposure to sunlight and limited space for movement and exercise, both Kiki and Linus had mobility issues. Kiki was obese and could only waddle. Linus could barely walk; he trembled constantly and became winded from the slightest exertion. His hair was matted with pounds of feces, and it took caregivers many months of effort to groom him through the mesh and cut out the mats. Today, both have regained mobility, enjoy a healthy diet and are happy residents of the Center.
Since great apes can live in captivity over 50 years, the long-term financial commitment for the sanctuary accepting these former exotic pets is a huge responsibility (approximately $20,000 a year), and rarely do their original owners share the burden of costs.