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Race to save the abandoned chimps of 'Monkey Island'

Last Updated Mar 14, 2016 at 2:55 pm EDT

It’s been called the real Planet of the Apes. A series of six islands, off the coast of West Africa, inhabited solely by former research chimpanzees. The primates have survived decades of invasive experiments, two civil wars and most recently Ebola. Their lives have, once again, been put in danger.

Our Avery Haines traveled 8,000 kilometres by plane, car and boat to remote Liberia to visit the now abandoned research facility and “Monkey Island”.

“I had heard about these chimpanzee’s being ‘retired’ on these islands some time ago but was shocked to discover the latest threat to their lives,” Haines said.

The threat this time is not experiments, not war, not disease, but starvation.

It’s a story that begins back in the 1970’s, when a U.S. research lab, the New York Blood Center, decided to set up in Liberia, trapping wild chimpanzees and infecting them with diseases like hepatitis and ‘river blindness’ to develop vaccines.

After more than 40 years of experiments, the New York Blood Center ended it’s Liberian project in 2005. The surviving chimpanzees were put on a series of islands with no natural food or water. The caretakers, many of whom have worked with the chimps since the 1970’s, were paid to take them food and water every other day. Then, at the height of the Ebola crisis last year, the New York Blood Center quietly decided to stop paying the caretakers. The chimpanzees began starving to death.

In this 14 minute documentary, Haines takes you to the haunting, eerie research facility and to the islands where these chimps continue to live.

“This isn’t a story about big bad researchers. It’s not even a story about the Humane Society coming to the rescue. More than anything it’s about a few Liberian caretakers who have risked their lives, again and again to protect the chimpanzees they’ve been caring for, for decades”

The Humane Society of the United States has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the abandoned chimps, and continues to pressure the New York Blood Center to live up to it’s financial obligation.

There are two ways you can help:

Click here to donate funds to help keep the chimpanzee’s fed and cared for

Click here to sign a petition to urge NYBC to reinstate funding for this chimpanzee colony