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With new arrivals comes a need for space, and the only chimpanzee sanctuary in the region is working diligently to provide just that for their new housemates.

Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, located west of Ellensburg welcomed three new chimpanzees to their family in August 2019, and the last year has been spent finding a perfect fit for them within the sanctuary. Willie B, Honey B and Mave arrived from Wildlife Waystation, a sanctuary in Southern California after they announced they were shutting their doors. They join the other seven Chimpanzees that have been at the sanctuary since 2008.

GETTING THEM ACQUAINTED

Sanctuary Co-Director Diana Goodrich said that after the new housemates arrived and went through a quarantine period, staff members began attempting to integrate them into the existing group beginning in the fall of 2019.

The attempts were unsuccessful, with one incident resulting in injuries to one of the chimpanzees.

“We decided to bail on that plan,” Goodrich said. “They’re living separately again, but they’re doing fine. The three are getting along great and settling in well.”

Goodrich said the three are engaging in plenty of play in their own group, and the sanctuary worked to create a specific outdoor area for the new arrivals.

“So far, only Willie B is brave enough to go out there,” she said. “Over the summer, he has really liked it and has spent a lot of time out there.”

Although the integration attempts weren’t successful, Goodrich said the occurrence is not unheard of. She said approximately 20% of integration attempts are unsuccessful in settings like theirs. Due to the pandemic, she said the sanctuary has had to rely on staff members to work on getting the new arrivals comfortable in their new homes without their normal volunteer involvement. Although there isn’t concrete knowledge about if chimpanzees can get the virus, she said they are at high risk due to their biological makeup.

“Obviously, we’re wearing masks all the time,” she said. “That’s our big fear is them getting it.

It is a significant concern.”

Goodrich said the three had been living at the sanctuary in California for approximately 25 years before the location shut down after wildfires and flooding damaged the facility. They were part of approximately 400 animals that needed new homes as a result of the closure. In the spring of 2019, Goodrich said she received a call from the California sanctuary informing her that they were looking to rehome 42 chimpanzees.

“We just happened to be in a position of having already started our expansion,” she said. “We knew we could take in a few chimpanzees and work towards finding homes for the rest of them.”

Although they couldn’t take in all of the California refugees, Goodrich said her organization is working with three other sanctuaries to provide homes for all of the remaining chimpanzees.

“Some of them have already found homes at other sanctuaries,” she said.

As it had been years since the sanctuary had taken in new residents, Goodrich said it took time for the staff to adjust to the new arrivals, and it took time for the new arrivals to get accustomed to their new surroundings. Over time, Goodrich said chimpanzees’ personalities began to shine.

“They’re really wonderful,” she said. “Honey B is super smart and very athletic. She’s actually the daughter of one of the chimpanzees that lives with us, although they don’t know that. She was taken when she was a baby, but she has some same personality quirks. Mave is kind of the best friend that everyone needs. She’s always there for the other chimpanzees and serves as a stabilizing force. Willie B is kind of a big guy and very aloof, I would say. He loves computer screens, so every time we take out our phones, he wants us to show him videos and photos. He really likes seeing videos of other chimpanzees.”

LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE

The three new chimpanzees are currently living in what Goodrich refers to as phase 1 of the sanctuary’s new expansion, which she said is designed as a quarantine space. Phase 2 of the expansion began in July 2020 and was in jeopardy due to financial concerns arising from the pandemic.

“We kind of forged ahead, and we have been under construction since July,” she said. “That means we should be able to rescue another group of six chimps from Wildlife Waystation by next summer or fall.”

In order to ensure the plan stays on track, Goodrich said the sanctuary is working to raise enough money to complete phase 3 of the project, which involves constructing two greenhouse areas that provide both indoor and outdoor spaces for the Chimpanzees. Despite financial concerns related to the pandemic, Goodrich said individual donors have continued to step up to help the sanctuary forge ahead with their expansion plans.

“They have been fantastic,” she said.

Goodrich said the sanctuary has also seen new individual donors engage in supporting the cause, which she said most likely comes from more people being on the internet while at home during the pandemic.

“They probably have just stumbled across our blog and Facebook pages and have gotten to know the chimps on a daily basis,” she said. “A lot of people have told us we have been the bright spot for them over the last year, helping them take their minds off everything by following the Chimpanzees and their stories.”

Reporting for the DR since March 2018. Lover of campfires, black labs and good vibes. Proud Humboldt State alum!

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