There is a chimp sanctuary, the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in the world actually, just 25 minutes away from us. I didn't even know it was there until about 6 months ago when Kevin, who had flown over it that day, showed me a picture he'd snapped. Knowing it was there didn't mean I got to go see it. It's a sanctuary, not a zoo.
But I've been curious about it ever since.
Then this summer, a family friend, sent me an email about a member event and asked if I wanted to go. Um... Yes!!!
I'm not a member, but she is and she arranged and paid for me to attend as her guest and I chose to take Kaden. Not knowing what to expect, I only wanted one of my own monkeys with me to keep track of. Well, Kaden ended up having baseball practice (it's that time of year again) so Blue became my default date.
The sanctuary is on a converted orange grove. I say converted because they have built twelve different islands to house the various chimp "families." They can have up to 300 chimps in all. Right now they have 260-something. They provide a permanent home for chimps rescued from research labratories, the entertainment industry (The chimp from the Babe movie lives there.) and the pet trade.
Each island is connected to a chimp house where they get their meals and can also hang out. Some of them, whose previous lives where confined to small cages, stay in the house part for years before they get their chimp toes in the grass. It's just too overwhelming for them at first.
The US is the only country that still allows chimps to be used for research. It's also legal for these social, intelligent creature to be kept alone in cages. How can that even be?
They are so considerate of the chimps that they have a mobile veterinarian unit so that when they need to do a procedure on a chimp they do it in view of its "family." This way their family member doesn't just seem to mysteriously disappear.
Of course, with such an impressive non-profit so close by, it makes you consider what you can do to help. Unfortunately my stay at home mom pay is still 0$ an hour and Kevin's monthly support totals are still about 20% shy of what MFI recommends as his salary. Considering that and the fact that we tithe, and give what else we can to other missionaries, Haiti, and Fragile X research... that doesn't leave anything for the chimps.
I was encouraged to learn that there are things we can give that wouldn't cost us anything - like paper towel rolls and empty peanut butter jars. They also needs things that, if occasionally slipped into the shopping cart, wouldn't kill the monthly budget, like raisins and pasta and other wish list items.
They can also use old magazines, kids board books, and toys. Hmmmmm. We could maybe find those things around here.
This would be a great group to collect for at one of the boys birthday parties (since we pick a charity instead of doing presents) or I could even do a chimp themed play date where I asked people to bring these things. On their volunteer page they even suggest "making decorations." This would be the play date activity! See? It's all coming together. :-)
You can too: savethechimps.org
And start setting aside your magazines, paper towel rolls, and empty creamy peanut butter jars... I'm going to be collecting them soon!