Liberia: Humane Society International Celebrates Legacy of Care for Over 60 Laboratory Chimpanzees Abandoned During Liberia Civil War and Ebola Crisis

Monrovia – Animal welfare charity Humane Society International, and its Second Chance Chimpanzee Refuge Liberia, celebrate World Chimpanzee Day on July 14 with a moving tribute to colleague Joseph Thomas, who died in January this year after over 40 years of dedicated care for over 60 retired chimpanzees in Liberia that were previously used in invasive biomedical research. SCCRL and HSI are now embarking on an exciting new phase of sanctuary development with architectural and construction plans to build a veterinary clinic and new facilities on island chimpanzee homes.

Thomas first encountered chimpanzees in 1979 when he started working at the research center where they were used in experiments. When civil war erupted in Liberia and then years later Ebola devastated the country, Thomas and other local workers remained in the facility and risked their lives to care for the chimpanzees. In the mid-2000s, Joseph helped move the chimpanzees to six islands in the Farmington and Little Bassa River estuary in west-central Liberia, as research on them was phased out. In 2015, when the Animal Research Society’s funding ended, it was Thomas who launched an international plea for help as he did his best to bring together local resources to continue feeding the animals. chimpanzees. His advocacy caught the attention of Humane Society International who stepped in to provide emergency seed funding to save the chimpanzees. HSI has since made a commitment to provide them with lifelong care.

Dr Richard Ssuna, Veterinarian for Second Chance at Humane Society International, says: “These chimpanzees cannot fend for themselves because they were originally taken from the wild when they were babies or raised in captivity, and the islands do not have enough natural food sources. If Joseph and his team had not stayed behind during the Civil War to feed them all the fruits and vegetables they could get in the local markets, these animals would have starved to death. Joseph had a remarkable bond with chimpanzees, he knew each of them by name and personality. They trusted him tremendously, and throughout all the years of strife and turmoil they endured, Joseph was their one constant. His passing leaves a big hole in our hearts and in our team, but we are determined to make Joseph proud and continue his incredible legacy. “

HSI’s team of 30 employees in Liberia provides round-the-clock care for chimpanzees, including preparing and feeding a nutritious diet twice a day, providing security around island chimpanzee homes, and administering veterinary care. and high quality birth control programs.

HSI is also embarking on an exciting new phase of sanctuary development, with architectural and construction plans to build a veterinary clinic and new facilities on island chimpanzee homes. HSI’s new infrastructure project has now got the government clearance it needs to move forward, marking a new chapter for the sanctuary and the major, multi-year venture to temporarily relocate chimpanzees during construction on the islands.

Amanda Gray, Second Chance Program Manager at Humane Society International, says: “Second Chance offers an almost wild existence in the mangrove forests where chimpanzees can roam freely, live together in social groups and even make nests on top of the trees. night. Some chimps like Samantha, Jiminy Cricket, and Brutus are over 40, so they’ve been through a lot. But they’ve all gone from the malnourished, desperate chimpanzees we first encountered to healthy, happy, and prosperous animals. We are committed to providing lifelong care, which could take another 60 years, so our plan to build new facilities on the islands will ensure they receive the best care in the future. “

Joseph Thomas’ legacy of love for chimpanzees also lives on in HSI’s community education work in Liberia. HSI operates humane education programs in 25 communities and 12 schools to promote kindness and respect for animals and the environment. HSI’s Dr Ssuna also provides free and regular veterinary care and vaccinations for the dogs and cats in the community, and the association funds community initiatives such as local road repairs, the provision of medical equipment. sanitation to help prevent COVID-19, as well as recruiting staff and purchasing food locally. for the shrine.

Gray concludes, “We are deeply indebted to Joseph for his tireless commitment to chimpanzees for over 41 years and for the sacrifices he made to ensure their safety. It is truly because of his heroic dedication and dedication that the chimpanzees we care for are alive. today. The chimps and his teammates at Second Chance were like family to Joseph, and he was family to us. “

Please visit hsi.org to learn more about chimpanzees and to support our work to help them and animals around the world.

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