Carol Noon, an athropologist with a PhD from the University of Florida, has managed to do what no one else has done for chimpanzees. She bought over 200 acres of land to build what will be the largest chimpanzee refuge in the world. When it’s complete in 2008, 291 chimps will roam virtually free on 12 islands, dotted with jungle gyms, hammocks, tire swings – and no cages! 266 chimps of the chimps were adopted when Noon won several legal battles against the United States Air Force and then rescued biomedical research company that is now bankrupt.

Noon specializes in resocialization of isolated chimpanzees and carefully chooses which chimps will go together to form “families” on the islands. It was her training in 1989 at the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage in Zambia, where the animals were kept in 14-acre enclosures, that she was influences to build a large open cageless habitat for the chimps. I couldn’t agree more with her vision, and appreciate she is applying her specialization in resocialization without bars and enclosures. Here’s an image of the facilities and some of the chimps enjoying the open air:

An estimated 200,000 chimps still live in Africa, a rapid decrease from a few million just 50 years ago. The U.S. is home to 2,400 captive chimps, a few hundred of them live in zoos and work in Hollywood. About 1,700 are used in biomedical testing. Most of the chimps on the island are in their 40s and maybe have another decade left to live. Because Noon doesn’t believe in captive breeding, the males have had vasectomies.

Jane Goodall, also a board member of Noon’s Center for Captive Chimpanzee Care remarks,

“It took someone like Carole Noon to rescue the chimpanzees at Coulston. I was absolutely thrilled to see them on the island at the Florida sanctuary. The individual stories of their rehabilitation are truly moving.”

Noon’s Save the Chimps organization, the one that preceeds over the Center for Captive Chimpanzee Care, receives no government money, relying solely on donations to fund the $2.5 million a year operation. For $120 a year donors can click on Save The Chimps and adopt an animal.

Source, the Associated Press’ Big chimp refuge offers life with no cages.