An Unprecedented Partnership for Chimpanzees

July 28, 2016

Chimpanzee at Chimp Haven
Chimpanzee at Chimp Haven

Written By

Kevin Bell

President and CEO

Lincoln Park Zoo is pleased to announce that we’ve embarked on an unprecedented partnership with  national chimpanzee sanctuary Chimp Haven. This collaboration—the first major partnership between an accredited zoo and an accredited chimpanzee sanctuary in the United States—sees both organizations working together to improve the lives of these complex animals.

As you know, Lincoln Park Zoo has long advocated for better lives for chimpanzees. Our scientists were part of the successful lobbying effort to persuade the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to recognize all chimpanzees as endangered. Lincoln Park Zoo’s Project ChimpCARE works to find sustainable homes for chimpanzees who have been isolated as pets and performers. And researchers with the zoo’s Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes have spent thousands of hours monitoring chimpanzee tool use, cognition, and behavior at the zoo—gathering invaluable information for understanding this complex species and improving its care—even as other zoo scientists study and save wild chimpanzees in the Republic of Congo’s remote Goualougo Triangle, one of the most untouched ecosystems on Earth.

Chimp Haven has also done amazing work to benefit chimpanzees. Founded in 1995 to advance the long-term housing and care of the species, the organization was chosen to create and manage the United States’ national chimpanzee sanctuary in 2000. It houses more than 200 chimpanzees retired from research labs, enabling these animals to live out the rest of their lives in a variety of natural social groups and settings.

Now, as part of this unprecedented partnership, which was announced today in the prestigious journal Science, a scientist from Lincoln Park Zoo’s Fisher Center is working full time to help study Chimp Haven’s chimpanzees. Research fellow Bethany Hansen, Ph.D., came to the zoo in fall 2015 after earning her doctoral degree studying the Ngogo community of wild chimpanzees in Uganda’s Kibale National Park. Now in Louisiana, she spends her days recording space use, social interactions and other behaviors among Chimp Haven’s lively groups. Her results—alongside the vast dataset collected at Lincoln Park Zoo—may reveal preferences that could improve the care of chimpanzees everywhere.

While Bethany’s research is at the heart of the collaboration, the partnership extends far beyond it. With generous support from the Arcus Foundation, Lincoln Park Zoo and Chimp Haven are sharing best practices and knowledge in areas from learning programs to animal care to community outreach. The results will benefit chimpanzees in our care and beyond.