Partner Spotlight: Emma's Journey With Project Chimps

Ali Crumpacker, October 23, 2018

Today we are excited to share a blog from NEAVS partner Ali Crumpacker, Executive Director, Project Chimps. 

Emma has secrets she will never be able to share. She was born in a laboratory and placed on loan to another research facility at a young age. She can’t tell us what experiments may have been done on her. She can’t tell us why today, at 13, she has unusual behaviors and quirks.

Emma is a chimpanzee; our closest biological relative. But we humans haven’t treated our cousins very well and the effects for Emma are clear. Emma has difficulty socializing with other chimpanzees. Chimps, in general, are very social individuals, so Emma’s isolation stands out.

Thankfully, she is now receiving exemplary care at Project Chimps, a 236-acre sanctuary for former research chimpanzees, located in the forested Blue Ridge Mountains. Emma is one of 49 chimpanzees currently living in retirement at Project Chimps, which NEAVS supports.

Emma’s journey to sanctuary was a long one. In 2015, the U.S. became the last developed country to effectively end chimpanzee research. The resulting population of former U.S. laboratory chimpanzees leaves us with the obligation to retire them to sanctuary where their needs are the priority. Project Chimps is working to provide a home for more than 200 privately owned chimpanzees, and Emma was in the very first group to arrive there in 2016, after eleven long years in the lab.

Moving chimpanzees from a life of exploitation in a laboratory to sanctuary is the dream we share with NEAVS for all animals currently in research. And we are happy to see our collective hard work rewarded with beautiful happy endings like Emma’s.

Yet, Emma’s journey isn’t over. Now, she’s on a slow road of recovery.

We believe that she was kept in single-chimpanzee housing while on loan to a lab. Sadly, this has impacted her interest in social sessions with her peers. When Emma’s group has access to Project Chimps’ forested, six-acre habitat, the first thing she does is run in the opposite direction of the other chimps. While she isn’t completely anti-social, she seems to seek out her own private space rather than forage near her group mates. While her group mates often explore the habitat in duos or groups, Emma is a loner.

There is a beauty in her solitary moments: she now has the choice to be alone. In the lab, that choice was not hers. Today, Emma can decide whom to spend time with, whom to enjoy a meal with, whom to groom, where to sleep, and most of all, where to curl up with a blanket in the woods to stare at the tops of pine trees as they sway overhead.

Emma now has support from experts in chimpanzee behavior and care. Those specialists are working with her to encourage positive social interaction with other chimpanzees in her social group. Soon, she will be included in small group meetings to broaden her social circles even farther.

NEAVS was a major player in ending the use of chimpanzees, like Emma, in U.S. laboratories. They led efforts to ensure labs would turn their chimpanzees over to accredited sanctuaries; and they remain vigilant to make certain the fate of other chimpanzees waiting in U.S. labs for their turn at sanctuary are not denied their rights.

But more than 160 former research chimpanzees are still waiting at NIRC for their turn to retire permanently to sanctuary at Project Chimps.

All former research chimps deserve the life that Emma has now and we are committed to ensuring each and every one of them gets that chance.

Please support chimps like Emma at Project Chimps and all animals locked away in labs by making your gift today.

About Ali Crumpacker: Ali Crumpacker is an experienced sanctuary director who has devoted her life to helping animals. At Project Chimps, she oversees a 236-acre sanctuary in Georgia working to relocate 200+ former research chimpanzees. Before coming to Project Chimps, Ali served as Director of The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center, Director of Wildlife Services with Project Wildlife and Animal Curator with the Cayuga Nature Center.