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By Nedra Rhone | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. (AP) — With reactions ranging from excitement and curiosity to fear and trepidation, 15 former lab chimps took their first steps outdoors earlier this month at the Project Chimps sanctuary in North Georgia.

The 236-acre sanctuary is currently home to 31 chimpanzees that have spent their entire lives in captivity as subjects used in biomedical research.

On Jan. 16, with the completion of the Peachtree Habitat — a six-acre, forested habitat at the sanctuary — nine females and six males ranging in age from 11 to 27 ventured out in two gender-separated groups to frolic and forage for food just as they would in the wild.

It was the first time they had the chance to exercise their free will with regard to their environment, said Ali Crumpacker, executive director of Project Chimps.

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“Imagine never having stepped outside your own home and only knowing carpet or your porch under your feet. That’s what it was like for these chimps,” she said.

The males were out for approximately 90 minutes. The female group stayed out for about 45 minutes.

One lower-ranking female chimp, Emma, did not go out with her group initially, but later spent 40 minutes outside on her own.

With temperatures in the 30-degree range, almost all of the chimps took the opportunity to wander around outside. They sounded alarm calls and pant hoots and hugged one another for reassurance.

They did not attempt to climb trees while outdoors, but they did forage for pomegranates and other foods that caregivers had placed outside to encourage the chimps to explore.

The chimps were not allowed outside on Jan. 17 as temperatures dropped and snow rolled into North Georgia, but they watched as snowflakes started to fall and they caught snow in their fingers while standing on the enmeshed outdoor porch areas attached to their indoor villas.

Over the next few weeks, the chimps will be on an outdoor rotation schedule in their current social groupings (two groups of males and two groups of females). In the course of several months, caregivers will work to expand the chimps’ social groups by introducing them to one another.

The ultimate goal is to replicate …read more

Source:: East Bay – Science

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Video: Ex-research chimps at sanctuary go outdoors for first time

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