Project Chimps – Not Wild But FREE!
Pack up the minivan, this is a USA road trip worthy destination! Make it a multi-day stop with a hike on the Appalachian Trail (southern most trailhead is close by) and a stop at the largest Big Foot Museum in the USA.
I asked my kids, "How would you like to put on a parade for chimpanzees at Halloween time?". I got one very excited "YES" and one absolute "NO". To be fair, the negative was a four year old that was not allowed to have ALL of the markers. I followed up by asking, "What if you dressed up like a monkey?" He changed his mind, "…YES, then they will all come to see me!" You got it buddy.
That is exactly what happens at Project Chimps for the "Chimp or Treat" event. Children are invited to dress up and participate in a parade put on FOR THE CHIMPS to enjoy! The chimps in residence love children and they love them in colorful, creative attire even more. If your costume is particularly good you will be rewarded by a chimp or two at the window gazing curiously back at you. Rather than the zoo approach that makes the animals the spectacle, this puts the people on display for the animals to enjoy.
This type of event typifies, in a good way, the type of care these former research chimps receive on a daily basis. Due to years spent in research labs these animals can't be released into the wild. They wouldn't know how to cope outside an enclosed area, forge for food or defend themselves. At Project Chimps, the resident chimpanzees experience freedom to roam and encounter people on their own terms on their own timeline.
My guest, Ali Crumpacker, says the first thing guests want to know is if they get to hug a chimp. I will say it a little more sternly than she would… NO! No how and no way! In so many ways this is not safe for humans and not respectful of the animals. After years of negative interactions with humans the animals now get to live safe, minimally invasive lives. Project Chimps aims to keep it this way.
Now don't be sad about the chimp cuddle you hoped for. There are a lot more ways to participate at Project Chimps. If you are up for a short hike you can tour the chimp enclosure with a Project Chimps guide. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts can earn badges and more through cooperation of the friendly staff. Local persons can volunteer onsite regularly doing chimpanzee care, enrichment activities, gardening, communications, fundraising, events and facilities maintenance. College students with qualifying areas of study will find rewarding internships at Project Chimps too. Not local but still want to volunteer? Take a Chimpcation! Spend a week onsite and stay on the property while listening the the chimps sing at the moon. Please ask about age requirements or to arrange age appropriate participation.
In addition to the regular visitation and volunteer opportunities you can also book special events. Seated in the foothills of the Blue Mountains the property is just stunning. Why not get married in the mountains, next to a private lake with the chimps in the trees chattering around you? For the nature lover this sounds like a dream and so is the price. I'm not going to spoil the reservation price. You will have to look it up yourself – they aren't charging enough! Private rentals also come with a private Chimp Enclosure tour (prior to any alcohol be served).
At the moment Project Chimps has 79 resident Chimpanzees in two, 3 acre enclosures. They live in small family groups. The sanctuary is 236 acres to offer excellent expansion options. The goal is to house more than 200 chimpanzees and expand the family groups to more similarly reflect those of their truly wild counterparts.
Each chimpanzee requires approximately $22,000 per year to feed and house. None of this could be possible without donations. In addition to monetary contributions there are other ways to support Project Chimps. There are links below to Project Chimp’s Amazon wish list and more. If you are road tripping consider looking around your house and packing some of these items.
Coronavirus Update (date): Project Chimps has temporarily suspended visits following the guidance of the US Centers for Disease Control. They are still booking visits after May 10. See all of the options and updates at projectchimps.org/visit
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Host Travel Radio Podcast
Special Guest: Ali Crumpacker.