A chimpanzee sanctuary in Texas is demanding the return of two chimpanzees in the care of Chimps Inc., if the Tumalo sanctuary moves forward with its plan to transport its chimpanzees to a research facility in Iowa.

Primarily Primates Inc., a chimpanzee sanctuary in San Antonio, filed a complaint Tuesday in Deschutes County Circuit Court to stop Chimps Inc. from moving two chimpanzees, Emma, 16, and Jackson, 18, who came from the Texas sanctuary.

Priscilla Feral, president and board chair at Primarily Primates, said the Texas sanctuary temporarily closed in October 2006 after allegations of animal neglect and misused funds, and the closure resulted in its chimps being sent to other sanctuaries across the country. Chimps Inc. took in Emma and Jackson, but with the agreement that they would return to Texas if Chimps Inc. ever dissolved or needed to find a new home for the chimpanzees.

The court filing claims Chimps Inc. is refusing to return Emma and Jackson and intends to move them and its five other resident chimps to the Ape Cognition and Conservation Initiative, a research facility in Des Moines, Iowa.

“Yesterday, I learned from a former Chimps Inc. board member that Chimps Inc. is imminently planning to transport all seven of the chimpanzees to ACCI in the next couple of days,” Feral wrote in a court filing Tuesday.

Michel Waller, board president at Chimps Inc., was unavailable Wednesday, but previously said moving the chimpanzees became necessary after the organization was evicted by the landowner and founder, Lesley Day. Waller also explained last month that the Iowa research facility offers vast outdoor space and does noninvasive and nonmedical research such as presenting the chimpanzees with puzzle games and language software.

“These activities bring enrichment and stimulation to the chimpanzees’ lives and are encouraged at all captive chimp sites,” Waller said.

Day, who stepped down as president of Chimps Inc. in 2017 after safety and labor violations, is evicting the organization over disagreements about the sanctuary’s mission and who should operate it after incidents that included chimpanzees biting off the fingers of workers.

Day is supporting a new Bend-based nonprofit called Freedom for Great Apes and signed a long-term lease with the group to let it take control of the sanctuary.

Day and Freedom for Great Apes are concerned about moving the chimpanzees across the country and sending them to the research facility in Iowa.

According to a court filing Tuesday, the Chimps Inc. lease with Day ends May 10. Day offered Monday to let Chimps Inc. become a month-to-month tenant in order to give all sides additional time to work out the best arrangement for the chimpanzees, court documents show.

In addition, Primarily Primates said in court documents it is willing to pay to relocate and house all seven chimpanzees from Chimps Inc. The Texas sanctuary, which cares for 35 chimpanzees, is also willing to discuss allowing Emma and Jackson to stay in Tumalo if the property is overseen by Freedom for Great Apes.

Feral said the Texas sanctuary, along with Day and Freedom for Great Apes, worries about the chimpanzees moving to the research facility in Iowa.

“It is unheard of that chimpanzees in a sanctuary would be sold or moved to a research facility when sanctuaries exist to receive primates and other animals after they are released from the animal exploitation industry,” Feral wrote in court documents Tuesday. “Research facilities typically house chimpanzees in cages, a far cry from the space, freedom and care that a sanctuary resident deserves and receives.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, kspurr@bendbulletin.com