As you may have
Dewar Wildlife Trust recently donated the facility that it built in
North Georgia to a new organization: Project Chimps. Project Chimps
purchased the 100 acres on which the facility was located, as well
as adjacent 86 and 50 acre parcels for its project to retire some 220+
presently housed at the New Iberia Research Center (NIRC) in Louisiana.
reasons for this change of direction.
Dewar Wildlife Facility only housed a few gorillas following its
construction (which started in 1997) and as time went on, it became
clear that it would never be fully utilized if the facility were solely
devoted to housing gorillas because of changes in the Gorilla Species Survival Plan
(SSP) management plan. The SSP in conjunction with the AZA
developed a plan for socially housing gorillas that significantly
reduced the need for a facility like the one operated by the Dewar
Wildlife Trust. Their efforts
made it possible
to largely resolve space issues in those Zoos that managed gorillas.
need for a facility just to house gorillas greatly reduced, and
following the unexpected passing of JoBeth Dewar in 2015,
it made sense to chart a new future for the facility itself with a
Wildlife had been in negotiations for some time
with Zoo Atlanta which had expressed an interest in the facility and
property. During that time, Dewar Wildlife was home to two of Zoo
Atlanta's gorillas. However, Zoo Atlanta decided not to proceed with
the acquisition and the two gorillas were returned to Zoo Atlanta in
June of 2014.
year later, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ruled that all
chimpanzees, both captive and wild, were to be afforded the protection
of given to an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). That step
ended the use of chimpanzees for research, and so the need to retire
all those chimpanzees in research facilities to sanctuary settings
suddenly intensified. With that ruling in mind, Dewar Wildlife was
contacted by Project Chimps to ascertain the possibility of using the
North Georgia facility as a home for chimpanzees being retired from
medical research facilities. In December 2015, Dewar Wildlife donated
its facility to Project Chimps and Project Chimps purchased the land on
which the facility was located. In May of 2016, Project Chimps
announced an agreement with Louisiana State University (LSU) to provide
sanctuary for and house the 220 chimpanzees at LSU's New Iberia
Research facility at the North Georgia facility. The first group of ten
retired chimpanzees is expected to arrive mid-summer.
Dewar Wildlife Trust continues to exist. As always, it is and
continues to be focused on the conservation and protection of wildlife,
although it no longer operates its own facility.
Its attention is now
shifting towards in situ conservation efforts in Africa, and in
ensuring that donations get through directly to people working on the
frontline of Gorilla Conservation. Many large conservation
organizations end up consuming significant portions of contributions
with their own operating expenses, while 100% of money donated to the
Wildlife Trust will be directed specifically
towards conservation actions in Africa.