The Annex: Who Let the Chimps Out?

The Annex: Who Let the Chimps Out?

By Lena Kozubek

At Project Chimps, our team continuously strives to better the chimps’ lives. The consistent support from our donors, sponsors, volunteers, and board members have allowed us to improve the chimpanzees’ habitats in more ways than one.

The construction of the Annex ensures one family group has access to an open-air habitat every day. Thus increasing environmental stimulation and providing greater room for discovery. They also have more visibility to the world around them. The Annex, concluded in May 2024, includes a sky bridge and a 360 view with a fence posted all around the perimeter. The chimps can choose whether they want to go stargazing or be homebodies indoors! This habitat has plenty of open space for roaming, adventure, and discovery. Not only can we see the chimps, but most importantly, they can also see us!

Getting Our Hands Dirty: No Loose Screw Here!

The journey in constructing the Annex was long and arduous. Our Facilities Manager, Rodney Newberry recounts the development. Beginning in the Fall of 2022, the Project Chimps team began designing the enclosure and getting into the detailed work. A fencing contractor was hired for the pole and chain-link installation as trees and underbrush were cleared to open up the habitat. Once the area had clearer terrain, a construction crew began working on the setup. By 2023, the sky-bridge was being erected and platforms for the chimps’ were being constructed. In total, the Annex cost $1.2 million dollars to complete.

The time it took to build the Annex allowed us to create the best habitat possible for the chimps. Not only did we have to consider the safety precautions for the chimps and human visitors, we also wanted to make it a comfortable addition to the chimpanzees’ home! A construction one and a half years in the making can feel long indeed. Luckily, the chimps keep us inspired and we never forget about our greater goal: to consistently provide them an exemplary life in sanctuary.

Rising to the Occasion (with a sky-bridge!)

This year, 2024, proudly marks the 10th year that our sanctuary has been helping chimpanzees.

Our Director, Ali Crumpacker, stood behind the ceremonial ribbon and opened the dedication speech by recalling the years and their successes. (Watch the video here.)

2015: “The first moment they had hope.”
2016: “The first year we gave them peace.”
2018: “The first year we gave them a world without a roof.”
2024: “Today we give them a world without walls.”

The growth of Project Chimps is not only reflected in its increased construction, but also in the way the chimpanzees grow comfortable in their home. The family group that was introduced to the Annex included the very first females transported in 2016. Long-time visitors recalled the chimpanzees’ development and increased comfortability.

David Strickler, a donor attending the event, spoke about the opening of the first area, named the Peachtree Habitat, and remembered that in 2018 “they were very hesitant, cautious, and stood right at the opening for about 20 minutes.” With the Annex, these chimps had finally come to understand they are safe and cared for.

Who Let the Dogs Chimps Out?

When the doors opened, the chimpanzees ran out in excitement and curiosity. Latricia was the first one to come up the sky bridge and the rest were eager to follow. Having come right up to the paneled viewing area, it was clear the chimps were just as curious about us as we were about them!

Our board members, Amber Nash and Angie Smith, noted with tears in their eyes that the experience was “incredible”. They are “thrilled that [the chimps] just went out…their freedom is spectacular.”

Some chimps, like Gracie, showed to be more hesitant crossing the bridge. With the support of their family group, they grew comfortable and reassured one another. By the end of the event, the chimps were climbing tires and exploring their expanded home.

During the process, Rodney has been on the forefront of this construction project. He was honored for his dedicated work with the privilege of cutting the ceremonial ribbon, officially opening the Annex to the chimps. After the grand opening, Rodney commented that the event “feels surreal” and that he’s “extremely happy that the chimps get to use it.” He also pointed out that he’s excited that we’re finally finished. We are sure the chimps feel the same way!

Do you want to visit the sanctuary and experience the chimps enjoying their new habitat in person? Book a tour today!

Lena Kozubek is a 2024 Communications Intern

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