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Racing Against Time to Build a Sanctuary for 19 Chimpanzees

January 10, 2018 by Leave a Comment


The News

When Jenny and Jim Desmond moved to Liberia in 2015 to oversee the care of 66 chimpanzees who had been abandoned by the New York Blood Center, forestry authorities brought them 19 young chimpanzees in need of parents and a home. Unlike the blood center chimps, who were fully grown and living somewhat independently, the majority of these chimps were newly orphaned by poachers who killed their mothers for bushmeat. Like human babies, these chimpanzees need around-the-clock care.

In order to provide adequate care for the orphans, the Desmonds hired a team of caregivers from the local village to serve as their surrogate mothers. But chimpanzee babies grow up quickly, and, by two or three years old, they have to be transitioned into a group of other chimps. In addition, they need far more space — space that they don’t have in the small home they inhabit in a densely populated village two hours outside of Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city.

LCRP rescued these captive chimps whose families were killed for bushmeat.

Now, the Desmonds are tasked with the responsibility of moving all 19 chimps, including two adults, and their human caregivers into a forested area where they will build a sanctuary from the ground up. The sanctuary will have enclosed areas in the forest so that the chimps can live in a semi-wild environment by day; night time housing for the younger chimps; a clinic; a commissary for food preparation; isolation areas for new arrivals to prevent the spread of illnesses; housing for caregivers and volunteers; public areas for education and conservation programs; and administrative offices.

Enrichment activities at Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue & Protection (photo: Jenny Desmond)

They’ve already created an entity, Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue & Protection (LCRP), and leased a large tract of forested land on the Farmington River, just a few miles away from the islands where the blood center chimps are living. Now they need to raise funds to build.

LCRP’s Jim Desmond, one of two veterinarians in Liberia, performs minor surgery in a makeshift operating room (photo: Jenny Desmond)

The sanctuary has a second and equally important mission – to protect wild chimpanzees in their natural habitat.  If government authorities have a place to bring chimpanzees who they confiscate from poachers, then poachers will have less of an incentive to capture baby chimps in order to sell them as pets.  In the absence of a sanctuary, the authorities turn a blind eye to the trade in baby chimps because they have no place to bring them. Sanctuaries therefore play a critical role in the conservation of the species.

Your Turn

Please support the life-saving rescue and conservation work being conducted by Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue & Protection.


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Orphaned Baby Chimps Find Refuge

June 19, 2017 by Leave a Comment


The News

Jenny and Jim Desmond arrived in Liberia in 2015 with a big job to do – overseeing the care of the 66 chimpanzees abandoned on six islands by the New York Blood Center. Little did they know that, within weeks of their arrival, the government would be adding to their workload by bringing them orphaned baby chimpanzees who needed sanctuary.

Liberia has an estimated 7,000 wild chimpanzees remaining in its forests. The fact that these great apes are endangered doesn’t stop poachers from illegally hunting them for their meat.  The baby chimps, orphaned when their mothers are killed for their meat, are then sold as exotic pets.

Chimps rescued from the illegal exotic pet trade in Liberia are brought to Jenny and Jim Desmond with Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue & Protection (LCRP)

Before the Desmonds arrived in Liberia, the government turned a blind eye to the illegal chimp trade because authorities had no place to bring chimps who they could have confiscated from their captors or new “owners.” Because the Desmonds have experience rescuing and rehabilitating great apes, authorities began to bring them babies – some just weeks old.

Baby chimps rescued by LCRP are raised by surrogate mothers until they are old enough to be integrated with a group of juveniles who no longer need around-the-clock attention.

The Desmond’s property in Liberia, which is owned by the government and is adjacent to a busy laboratory, is not ideal for raising orphaned chimps. Jenny and Jim are therefore now tasked with looking for land in a nearby forest to build a proper sanctuary with all of the facilities needed to care for the chimps, including an infirmary, overnight housing for the babies, a kitchen, offices and housing for caregivers and volunteers. The Desmonds have already created an entity, Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue & Protection (LCRP). Now, they need to raise money in order to build the sanctuary.

A rescued chimp takes the wheel from Jim Desmond on the way home from “chimp school” at LCRP’s temporary location

Jenny Desmond is quick to point out that providing sanctuary for rescued chimps is only part of their mission. One of their biggest priorities is using the sanctuary as a platform to educate the public about the importance of conserving chimpanzees in their natural habitat. “We’ll know that our efforts are having an impact when we stop receiving chimps,” said Desmond. “Our ultimate goal is to not need to exist at all.”

Your Turn

Please follow Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue & Protection (LCR) on Facebook and Twitter.

Adopt a baby chimp at LCR.

Snack time at LCRP


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Animal Advocates Protest MetLife Shareholders Meeting Over Chimp Abandonment Scandal

June 23, 2016 by Leave a Comment


The News

As part of an ongoing campaign to demand that MetLife hold the NY Blood Center (NYBC) accountable for abandoning its former lab chimpanzees on islands in Liberia, animal advocates protested at the company’s annual shareholders meeting in New York City.

“If MetLife prides itself on ‘corporate responsibility,’ then how can it possibly turn a blind eye to NYBC’s unconscionable decision to leave 66 chimps to starve to death?,” says protester Elena Natale. “We hope that MetLife will meet with the animal advocacy community to discuss this crisis.” MetLife is NYBC’s largest corporate donor.

Activists protest the MetLife shareholders meeting.

Activists protest the MetLife shareholders meeting.

In an apparent effort to curb interactions between protestors and shareholders, MetLife closed the main entrance to its building and rerouted meeting attendees to the back door.

The MetLife building's front door was locked in anticipation of the protest.

MetLife closed the front entrance to its building in anticipation of the protest.

Activists, unwilling to stay penned near the front entrance, exited the barricades errected by the NYPD and moved the protest to the back entrance.

Animal rights protestor at MetLife shareholders meeting.

Animal rights protestor at MetLife shareholders meeting

In November, 2015, primatologist Bob Ingersoll traveled from San Francisco to NYC to hand-deliver a petition to MetLife asking the company to cut its support of NYBC until the organization reinstates funding for the chimps. While a representative from MetLife did collect the petitions from him in the lobby, neither she nor anyone else from the company responded to him.

Primatologist Bob Ingersoll delivers petitions to a MetLife representative.

Primatologist Bob Ingersoll delivers petition to a MetLife representative.

On April 26, activists staged a 30-minute disruption in the lobby of the MetLife building during rush hour. Two weeks later, they protested at the NJ home of MetLife CEO Steven Kandarian. To date, MetLife has ignored all of the protests and the efforts to open a dialog regarding the plight of the chimps.

Activists protest at the home of MetLife's CEO in Summit NJ and at its headquarters in NYC.

Activists protest at the home of MetLife’s CEO in Summit, NJ, and at its headquarters in NYC.

Former NYBC donor Citigroup, on the other hand, did respond to the pleas of animal advocates by issuing a public statement asserting that “the current situation is not tolerable” and donating $50,000 towards the care of the chimps.

In May, 2015, the NY Times reported that NYBC had “withdrawn all funding for them,” leaving the chimps to die of starvation and thirst. In order to keep the chimps alive, Liberians who had been employed by the blood center to deliver food and water, began to care for them on a volunteer basis. With virtually no resources and burdened by the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, these volunteers kept the chimpanzees alive until an HSUS-led coalition of over 30 animal conservation groups raised funds from the public to pay for the chimps’ care on an emergency basis — until NYBC reinstates funding.

A chimpanzee abandoned by the NY Blood Center with a Liberian caretaker.(AP Photo/ Abbas Dulleh)

A chimpanzee abandoned by the NY Blood Center with a Liberian caretaker. (AP Photo/ Abbas Dulleh)

The New York Blood Center, which has earned an estimated $500 million in royalties off of the research conducted on the chimpanzees, has publicly stated that it has no “contractual obligation” to pay for the chimps’ food and water and has shifted the financial burden of caring for their captive chimp population to the animal welfare community.

A chimpanzee abandoned by the NY Blood Center receives water from a local volunteer.

A chimpanzee abandoned by the NY Blood Center receives water from a local volunteer.

Your Turn

Sign the Care2 petition to MetLife, NYBC’s largest corporate donor.

Join the Facebook page: New York Blood Center: Do the Right Thing to stay apprised of news and to participate in online actions to pressure NYBC board members to fulfill their promise to provide lifelong care to their laboratory chimps.

Use the tweet sheet to contact MetLife, NYBC and their stakeholders.

Follow TheirTurn on Twitter, and follow “Save NYBC Chimps”on Instagram and Twitter.


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Center of Chimp Abandonment Scandal, Howard Milstein, Now Embroiled in Federal Subprime Loan Trial

June 20, 2016 by Leave a Comment


The News

Howard Milstein, a multi-billionaire who has been widely criticized over the past year for his role in the NY Blood Center’s (NYBC) decision to abandon 66 chimpanzees in Liberia, is now embroiled in a federal trial regarding subprime loans made by Emigrant Savings Bank, where he serves as CEO.

Howard Milstein

Howard Milstein

According to the New York Times, Milstein expanded a program “that made hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to people with bad credit ratings and no proof that they could pay the money back” but who did “have houses that were rich in equity for collateral.” When Milstein bought Emigrant in 2004, 25% of the bank’s loans were regarded as subprime; by 2009, the number increased to 50%. Such loans are now illegal, but eight families are suing Emigrant, alleging that they were illegal a decade ago as well, largely because they were disproportionately marketed to minorities.

NY Times article reporting on a federal trial regarding subprime loans given by Emigrant Bank when Howard Milstein was its CEO.

NY Times article reporting on a federal trial regarding subprime loans given by Emigrant Bank when Howard Milstein was its CEO.

“Milstein’s exploitation of his customers comes as no surprise to us,” said Roberto Bonelli, one of the organizers of the campaign to compel Milstein and NYBC to reinstate funding for the abandoned chimpanzees. “Someone who is capable of leaving animals to starve to death is certainly capable of exploiting vulnerable humans as well.”  Howard Milstein was the chairman of NYBC’s board when the decision was made to abandon the chimpanzees. He continues to serve in that position.

Animal rights advocates protest and stage a die-in outside Howard Milstein's Park Ave. home on behalf of the chimpanzees abandoned by NYBC when he served as the chairman of its board.

Protesters stage a die-in at Howard Milstein’s Park Ave. home on behalf of the chimpanzees abandoned by NYBC.

In 2015, animal advocates staged approximately 10 protests at Milstein’s Park Avenue and Hamptons homes. According to The Real Deal, a monthly news outlet about the real estate industry, “Animal rights activists…picketed outside the Upper East Side home of the Milstein Properties head…protesting the New York Blood Center chair’s role in the organization’s treatment of research chimpanzees in Africa.”

The Real Deal reports on protests held at Milstein's park ave. home in support of the 66 chimpanzees abandoned by the NY Blood Center.

The Real Deal reports on a protest held at Milstein’s Park Ave. home.

For a 30 year period starting in the mid-1970s, NYBC conducted experiments on over 400 hundred chimpanzees in Liberia, where they could capture, breed and experiment on them with little regulatory oversight. After the research was conducted, NYBC moved the survivors onto six islands with no natural food or water and made a public commitment to provide them with lifelong care.

The NY Blood Center made a promise to provide the chimpanzees with lifelong care.

In 2005, The NY Blood Center promised to provide the chimpanzees with lifelong care.

In May, 2015, the NY Times reported that NYBC had “withdrawn all funding,” leaving the chimps to die of starvation and thirst. In order to keep the chimps alive, Liberians who had been employed by NYBC to deliver food and water, began to care for them on a volunteer basis. With virtually no resources and burdened by the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, these volunteers kept the chimpanzees alive until a coalition of over 30 animal conservation groups, led by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), raised funds from the public to pay for the chimps’ care on an emergency basis.

Young chimpanzee abandoned by the NY Blood Center receives water from a local volunteer.

A volunteer provides water to a chimpanzee abandoned by the NY Blood Center.

The New York Blood Center, which earned an estimated $500 million in royalties off of the research conducted on the chimpanzees, has publicly stated that it has no “contractual obligation” to pay for the chimps’ food and water and has shifted the burden of caring for their captive chimp population to the animal welfare community.

A mother chimpanzee abandoned by the NY Blood Center shares food with her baby.

A chimpanzee abandoned by the NY Blood Center shares food with her baby.

At a press conference on May 19th organized by HSUS, NY State Senator Tony Avella and NY State Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal condemned NYBC’s actions and demanded that the group resume funding for the chimps.

New York State senator Tony Avella addresses a demonstration at city hall demanding that NYBC reinstate funding for the care of the chimpanzees it abandoned.

At a press conference at NY City Hall, NY State senator Tony Avella demands that NYBC reinstate funding for the chimpanzees.

Your Turn

Sign the Care2 petition to MetLife, NYBC’s largest corporate donor.

Join the Facebook page: New York Blood Center: Do the Right Thing to stay apprised of news and to participate in online actions to pressure NYBC board members to fulfill their promise to provide lifelong care to their laboratory chimps.

Use the tweet sheet to contact MetLife, NYBC and their stakeholders.

Follow TheirTurn on Twitter, and follow “Save NYBC Chimps” on Instagram and Twitter.


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Neighbors of NY Blood Center Board Member Lash Out at Chimp Advocates During Nighttime Protests

June 13, 2016 by Leave a Comment


The News

During two nighttime protests at the home of NY Blood Center (NYBC) board member Michael Hodin, many area residents descended from their buildings to express their outrage at being disturbed after dark.

“My baby is sleeping,” said one angry man who confronted the protesters. “Give me your address, and I’ll come to your house.”

Neighbors express their outrage at being disturbed at night by chimp advocates.

Neighbors express their outrage at being disturbed at night by chimp advocates.

Activists began protesting at night only after more than a dozen daytime protests failed to persuade Hodin and his colleagues to reinstate funding for the 66 chimpanzees who they abandoned on islands in Liberia with no food or water.

“Most of these people ignored us for months when we politely asked them to contact Michael Hodin about the chimp crisis, so they shouldn’t be surprised that we came back at night – when we thought we could get their attention.” said Elena Natale, an activist who has protested at the same location several times during the day. “How odd that people explode over an hour’s worth of noise but show no anger at all about the abandonment of 66 chimps despite being made aware of the crisis week after week.”

The blood center did not acknowledge the grass roots campaign demanding that it reinstate funding for the chimps until the activists began protesting at night. “NYBC has made it clear that disruption is the only language they understand,” added Natale.

In a Q&A on its website, NYBC suggests that the chimp advocates are "bullies" who "encourage terrorism."

In a Q&A on its website, NYBC suggests that the chimp advocates are “bullies” who “encourage terrorism.”

In response to the anger, activists told area residents to complain to Michael Hodin and NYBC and noted that they will continue protesting at night until the organization fulfills its promise to provide lifelong care for the chimps.

For a thirty year period starting in the mid-1970s, NYBC conducted experiments on over 400 hundred chimpanzees in Liberia, where they could capture, breed and experiment on them with little regulatory oversight. After the research was conducted, NYBC moved the survivors onto six islands with no natural food or water and made a public commitment to provide them with lifelong care.

Chimps in Liberia left to die by the New York Blood Center

Chimps in Liberia left to die by the New York Blood Center

In May, 2015, the NY Times reported that NYBC had “withdrawn all funding,” leaving the chimps to die of starvation and thirst. In order to keep the chimps alive, Liberians who had been employed by NYBC to deliver food and water, began to care for them on a volunteer basis. With virtually no resources and burdened by the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, these volunteers kept the chimpanzees alive until a coalition of over 30 animal conservation groups, led by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), raised funds from the public to pay for the chimps’ care on an emergency basis.

At a press conference on May 19th organized by HSUS, NY State Senator Tony Avella and NY State Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal condemned NYBC’s actions and demanded that the group resume funding for the chimps.

NY State Senator Tony Avella Demands that NY Blood Center reinstates funding for the 66 chimps who they abandoned.

NY State Senator Tony Avella Demands that NY Blood Center reinstates funding for the 66 chimps who they abandoned.

Your Turn

Sign the Care2 petition and NYCLASS petitions to MetLife, NYBC’s largest corporate donor.

Join the Facebook page: New York Blood Center: Do the Right Thing to stay apprised of news and to participate in online actions to pressure NYBC board members to fulfill their promise to provide lifelong care to their laboratory chimps.

Use the tweet sheet to contact MetLife, NYBC and their stakeholders.

Follow TheirTurn on Twitter, and follow “Save NYBC Chimps” on Instagram and Twitter.


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