Mechanicsville chimpanzees headed to Houston Zoo - - Richmond, VA News

Mechanicsville chimpanzees headed to Houston Zoo

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A Mechanicsville man will send his six chimpanzees to live at the Houston Zoo after a drawn-out fight with Hanover officials over the animals.

Curtis and Bea Shepperson were facing a June 23 deadline to find a new home for at least four of the chimps, as they were only permitted by the county to have two of the animals at the Windy Oaks Animal Farm.

"We have looked after these chimpanzees for most of their lives, and we will miss them dearly when they go," said Curtis Shepperson. "But, we have always wanted what is best for them, and sending all six chimpanzees as a complete group to Houston Zoo is just that."

Curtis Shepperson says July 28th will be the last day the public will be allowed to view the chimpanzees.

The Sheppersons did not want to separate the chimps and have decided to relocate the entire group, according to a press release from the Lincoln Park Zoo, which helped find them a new home. The Lincoln Park Zoo's ChimpCare project says the chimps will remain as a family unit.

"This is an extremely positive resolution for everyone involved, but most of all for the chimpanzees themselves," said Dr. Steve Ross, head of Lincoln Park Zoo's Project ChimpCARE and chairman of the chimpanzee Species Survival Plan (SSP), who first began working with the Sheppersons in 2010. "Keeping the chimps together in their social group is unquestionably the best move for their well being, and the animals are now poised to receive the lifetime care they deserve. This outcome is a testament to what good can come from cooperation by people on all sides of an issue."

The chimpanzees will be moved later this year, once veterinary examinations and logistical details are taken care of.

"We are delighted to offer a home to this troop," said Beth Schaefer, Houston Zoo's Curator of Primates and Carnivores. "Our proven experience with privately-owned chimps puts us in a unique position to provide the best possible care for these animals. Our chimp habitat is the newest in the nation and is widely regarded as one of the world's pre-eminent facilities."

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