Chimp refuge in Ghana hits bumps
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2000:
Friends of Animals literature describing disease experiments to which ex-laboratory chimpanzees may have been subjected apparently backfired in December 1999 against FoA plans to relocate chimps from U.S. labs to a newly created sanctuary in Ghana.
FoA has been developing the sanctuary on Konklobi, a 163-acre island in Lake Volta, for approximately three years, in cooperation with the Ghana Department of Wildlife and with advisory supervision from Primarily Primates president Wally Swett. The Konklobi project director, Gerald A. Punguse, retired from his former post as chief wildlife officer in Ghana in November 1998.
The next step was to be actually obtaining chimps and delivering them to Ghana, to live out the rest of their lives in semi-wild habitat.
But Ghana Wildlife Society project officer Gerald Hillary Boake told The Ghanian Chronicle in early December that his organization may sue FoA for allegedly violating International Union for the Conservation of Nature standards governing return of wildlife to the wild. Citing FoA antivivisection literature, Boake postulated that the FoA chimps could bring new diseases to African wildlife, although the purpose of keeping the chimps on the island is to eliminate that risk.
Ghana once had wild chimps, but according to FoA the last evidence of any was “a single footprint in the western portion of the country more than five years ago.”
Konklobi is the second FoA attempt to start a chimp sanctuary in western Africa. The first, in Liberia, ended in 1990 when civil strife broke out, the FoA staff fled, and combatants ate the resident chimps.
Noting that housing the 1,500 chimps kept in U.S. laboratories costs the federal government about $7.5 million a year, Representative Jim Greenwood (R-Pa.) on November 22 introduced the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection Act, CHIMP Act for short, which would fund a national chimp sanctuary system. Greenwood touted such a system as “a more cost-efficient way of caring for surplus chimps, including those housed by the Coulston Foundation.”
With or without the CHIMP Act, such a sanctuary system seems to be forming willy-nilly.
Primarily Primates, of San Antonio, Texas, on November 15 announced that “all 34 chimpanzees retired from the U.S. Air Force have arrived safely.” The former NASA chimps’ indoor facilities were ready, but their outdoor facilities were still under construction at year’s end.
The U.S. Air Force awarded the chimps to Primarily Primates in August 1998. Another 111 ex-NASA chimps were turned over to the Coulston Foundation, which had maintained the colony under contract since 1993 at Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo, New Mexico.
In September 1999, however, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service found that Coulston was repeatedly violating Animal Welfare Act housing and care standards, and ordered Coulston to divest itself of 300 of the 650 chimps under its control, as part of a reorganization to meet the AWA standards.
On October 28, Coulston agreed to send 21 of the remaining exNASA chimps to the Center for Captive Chimpanzee Care, a new sanctuary-inplanning under direction of Carole Noon. The deal was announced while the CCCC was still negotiating to buy a former orange grove in St. Lucie County, Florida, as a projected sanctuary site.
El Al, the Israeli national airline, “is going to halt all shipments of monkeys,” Washington D.C. primate protection activist Linda Howard told ANIMAL PEOPLE on December 6. “However, it’s more a media ploy than a victory,” Howard continued. “Another Israeli company, Cargo Airlines, will resume the shipments. CAL appears to be a subsidiary of El Al, and leases all of its planes from El Al.”
The El Al decision came a month after Japan in October 1999 barred imports of monkeys f r o m Africa and South America except Guyana and Surinam, to avoid accidentally importing deadly tropical diseases. Japanese health and welfare ministry quarantine official Hisami Hiragi said that Japan would also bar monkey imports from Indonesia and Vietnam, “until our researchers complete studies on quarantine facilities in the respective countries.”