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College of the Sciences

Friends of Washoe to Move Chimps from CWU to Canadian Sanctuary

Friends of Washoe, the organization that owns chimpanzees at Central Washington University, announced today that the chimps will be moved as soon as possible to a sanctuary in Canada. CWU has accepted the decision and is cooperating fully in the transition. A joint statement from Friends of Washoe and CWU can be found here.

The Fauna Foundation Sanctuary (www.faunafoundation.org) in Québec, Canada, has applied to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for a permit that would allow the foundation to accept the transfer of chimpanzees. The cost of the transfer and the care of the chimps will be paid by Friends of Washoe, a non-profit organization established in 1980 to ensure the care of the chimps.

"The Friends of Washoe have concluded that moving the chimpanzees to a sanctuary as soon as possible is the best strategy to ensure a stable future for 37-year-old Tatu and 35-year-old Loulis," said CWU President James L. Gaudino, adding that the university supports the transition.

A statement issued jointly by the Friends of Washoe and CWU noted that a healthful living environment for chimpanzees requires numerous individuals and that introducing additional chimpanzees to Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute (CHCI) facilities would require state-funded capital improvements of more than $2 million. The statement went on to acknowledge that even if the funds were appropriated immediately, the facility could not be altered for several months, leaving the chimps in virtual isolation.

The Dean of the College of the Sciences, Dr. Kirk Johnson, said that no student's progress toward a degree would be impaired by the transition. Johnson said that interaction with the chimps or observation of live animals is not required for undergraduate or graduate degrees.

"The standard of care for primates is evolving to increase requirements for everything from physical space to medical care," said Johnson, adding that the US Department of Fish and Wildlife is now considering listing captive chimpanzees as endangered species. "All of these uncertainties add to the cost, delay, and complexity of maintaining a chimpanzee presence at CWU."

Johnson said CWU will continue to house CHCI as long as program requires space. Several considerations will inform future planning for the state-funded facility, which was completed in 1993. Some considerations will including establishing the timeline for the transition of chimpanzees to another location; assessing the condition of the 20-year-old facility; defining and prioritizing university space needs; and determining what funding may be available, should facility modifications be required. 

CWU has been home to chimpanzees since 1980, when Dr. Roger and Debbie Fouts brought Washoe, a chimpanzee they taught to use American Sign Language, to Ellensburg. A review of the needs of the CHCI began in February after three of the five chimpanzees had died: Moja in 2002, Washoe in 2007, and Dar in 2012. Research indicates that family relationships are vital to the emotional and physical well-being of chimpanzees, which live in extended family groups of as many as 20-120 individuals.

Media Contact: Linda Schactler, Executive Director of Public Affairs, 509-607-4103.

May 29, 2013