Seven chimpanzees at a Tumalo sanctuary will be staying together under new management instead of moving to a research facility in Iowa.

The apes’ fate had been unclear since February when Chimps Inc. management said it would move the chimps to the Ape Cognition and Conservation Initiative in Des Moines, Iowa.

Moving the chimps to Iowa came after Lesley Day, sanctuary founder and property owner, intended to evict Chimps Inc. over disagreements about its mission and who should operate it after incidents that included chimpanzees biting off the fingers of workers.

Day, who stepped down as president of Chimps Inc. in 2017 after safety and labor violations, put her support behind a recently formed Bend-based nonprofit organization called Freedom for Great Apes.

The new organization was formed in response to Chimps Inc.’s plan to move the apes out of state. The new group signed a long-term lease with Day and took over the care of the chimpanzees this week from Chimps Inc., which agreed to step away from the sanctuary.

“I would like to thank all the staff and volunteers at Chimps Inc. for their great work over the last 24 years, and express my appreciation to the amazing team at Freedom for Great Apes for stepping up to carry on the vital mission of giving these chimpanzees a safe and comfortable place to spend the rest of their lives together,” Day said in a statement Tuesday.

The change in management came this week as a resolution was reached between Chimps Inc. and a Texas sanctuary.

Primarily Primates Inc., a chimpanzee sanctuary in San Antonio, filed a legal complaint in March demanding the return of two chimpanzees in the care of Chimps Inc. if the Tumalo sanctuary moved the apes to Iowa.

Primarily Primates said in court documents it was willing to pay to relocate and house all seven chimpanzees from Chimps Inc. in order to keep them together.

The lawsuit was resolved once Chimps Inc. agreed to turn over the operation to Freedom for Great Apes and let the chimps stay together in Tumalo.

“We said we were not going to dismiss our lawsuit until we could be assured the chimps were going to stay together,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Primarily Primates. “Luckily, that meant there was going to be new management.”

Chimps Inc. management, through its attorney ­Katherine Tank, released a statement Tuesday saying the organization agreed it was in the chimps’ best interest to keep them together in Tumalo.

“Chimps, Inc. has worked tirelessly and successfully to provide the seven chimpanzees in its care an environment where they could thrive and grow,” the statement reads. “At the end of the day, keeping all of the chimps together was its first priority.”

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

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