Hanover chimps will move to Houston by November

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - A new development in the controversy over chimpanzees at a private zoo in Mechanicsville.

Just announced on Monday, all six will move to the Houston Zoo.

The chimps' owner, Curtis Shepperson, says he is sad to see them go. But he's glad the animals will stay together as a family.

Hanover County leaders say these chimps are a liability and they fear for public safety.  Shepperson responded to reporter questions at the last meeting to decide the animal's fate by saying, "Do you have children? What would happen if you lost your children?"

County leaders told Shepperson get rid of at least four of them. On Monday, an organization called Chimp CARE announced the chimps will soon move the Houston Zoo facility. The most important part was keeping them together.

"These chimpanzees have lived together as a stable group for many years now and to break up that group in order to relocate some or all of them [would be] be a detriment to their individual well being," said Dr. Steve Ross, director of Lincoln Park Zoo's Project ChimpCARE.

They won't be alone in the Lone Star state, the facility already has ten other chimpanzees. Zoo leaders tell NBC12 it's the largest and most up to date exhibit in North America. Shepperson says he wants his chimps to be around people, because that's what they're used to.

"Houston Zoo has done a real commendable job of insuring their long term care so they're going to be well positioned to care for these six incoming chimps," Dr. Ross said.

NBC12 has covered the inspiring and sometimes controversial life of the chimps in Mechanicsville for years. Shepperson used his private farm, which also houses other exotic animals, to raise funds for his grandson who survived cancer. In 2010, two chimps escaped which brought the unwanted attention from county leaders.

Now, the Sheppersons are preparing to say goodbye, but they'll still be able to see them. The Houston Zoo comes equipped with web cams which are always focused on the chimps' new home.

Shepperson says the chimps won't move until November because the weather is too warm right now.

He says on July 28th he will open up his property so people can see the chimps one last time.

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