By Sean Crumpacker
Between 80,000 and 120,000 chimpanzees exist in the wild. Worse off is the population of orangutans, which sits at 60,000.
According to Patti Ragan, founder of the Center for Great Apes, “there are about 100 orangutans dying a week in the wild.”
Additionally, many apes in captivity are terribly mistreated. Baby apes are ripped from their mothers to perform in circuses, advertisements, television shows and movies; once they grow too big and strong, they are often sent to biomedical research labs to be experimented on.
The same is often true for ‘pet’ apes, who are taken from their mothers and usually abandoned once they reach adult size and strength and are no longer safe to handle.
“The people who did these things weren’t bad; they loved these apes,” said Ragan.
However, she also assured, “They should not be pulled from their mothers, they should not be pets, they should not be used in commercials, and that’s the message we try to put out.”
Located in Wauchula, the Center for Great Apes aims to spare these amazing, intelligent animals from an isolated life trapped in small cages or laboratories and is the only accredited sanctuary in North America which supports orangutans.
What was once just Ragan and five apes she hoped to give a better life has since grown massively. As of today, the Center for Great Apes has rescued 62 apes.
“We want them to have an enriching life with their own species,” said Ragan. “We don’t want to humanize the apes.”
The sanctuary costs $1.8 million a year to run—covered entirely by donations. Those looking to support the rescue can pledge one-time or monthly donations on the Center for Great ’ website at www.centerforgreatapes.org/donate/donate-now/.
Additionally, supporters can become official Center for Great Apes members at the cost of a donation. Members receive access to the Center for Great Apes e-newsletter and invitations to exclusive events. For $250—the highest membership level—a family of up to four may even schedule private tours to visit the sanctuary.
Visit www.centerforgreatapes.org for more information.
“Great apes are incredibly intelligent. And they are, of course, our closest relatives. They are being completely decimated in the wild. It’s important to support rescue efforts whether they’re in the wild or captive situations like our sanctuary,” said Ragan. “Every ape is important.”