For months, the fate of two chimpanzees has hung in the balance while administrators at Central Washington University decided whether they could stay in their Ellensburg, Wash. home. On Wednesday, May 29, the Daily Record reported that Friends of Washoe, the nonprofit organization associated with the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute (CHCI) plans to move two chimpanzees from Central Washington University in Ellensburg to the Fauna Foundation, a sanctuary in Canada.
Friends of Washoe chairman Greg Beach said that they hope to move the chimpanzees as soon as possible. According to Beach, the decision was made because of concerns about the age and number of chimpanzees remaining at the institute.
Loulis, 35, and Tatu, 37, will be moved to the Fauna Foundation Sanctuary in Quebec, Canada. The sanctuary applied for a permit that would allow it to receive the chimpanzees.
Beach said that the move would be permanent and that Friends of Washoe doesn’t plan to bring more chimpanzees to Ellensburg.
“The overriding concern was the welfare of Tatu and Loulis,” Beach said.
“Also with the understanding the necessary improvements, even if approved by the Legislature, (would take) 12 months or more.
“We just felt it was unacceptable and it would be an unhealthy situation for the chimps and we couldn’t leave them in that situation for that length of time given their age.”
Beach said the health concerns have to do with the number of chimpanzees left at the facility and their age. Chimpanzees are highly social animals and, ideally, should live in groups of seven to 25 individuals. CHCI originally had five chimpanzees, including Washoe, the matriarch.
Friends of Washoe was established in 1981. CHCI is a sanctuary for chimpanzees who have acquired the use of American Sign Language. Tatu and Loulis use signs in conversations with one another and with their human friends.
Multiple sources say that CWU, which owns the CHCI facility, began reviewing the needs of the chimpanzees and the institute in February after the death of chimpanzee Dar in November at age 36.
A source within the administration disputed this, stating that there have been efforts to dissolve CHCI for several years – long before Dar passed away.
CWU had been looking several options for the institute, including expanding the center and bringing in more chimpanzees, or moving the chimps. The university estimated that it would cost more than $2 million to remodel the center to integrate more chimpanzees.
While CWU cited financial reasons as one of the primary motivators to push for moving Tatu and Loulis from CHCI, CWU President Jim Gaudino was the recipient of a large and controversial incentive package.
It was decided in 2011 that Gaudino will receive half a million dollars in 2016 for the retention of his services as the university’s president.
According to the Seattle Times, the hefty financial reward upset faculty, students and staff members at CWU. Gaudino, 62, apparently said that he was “reluctant” to initially sign the contract for the incentive, and knew that it would be unpopular, given the salary freeze for everyone else in the CWU administration.
Public School Employees of Washington, a union that represents support staff working at CWU, asked then-Governor Chris Gregoire to declare the contract infeasible.
The Seattle Times reported that Gaudino ultimately chose to accept the large incentive, as he felt that it validates his commitment to the university.
Gaudino already makes an annual salary of $290,000.
While he will not collect the retention incentive until 2016, perhaps donating to important services at CWU would further demonstrate his continued commitment to Central Washington University.
Friends of Washoe has handled the sad news with grace.
“This move ends a remarkable project that included landmark research in communication and language and starts a new approach to this field at CWU,” said a joint announcement from CWU and Friends of Washoe.
“We celebrate the privilege we have had to know Washoe, Moja, Dar, Tatu and Loulis. They have changed the lives of thousands of people who met them in Chimposiums, as CHCI volunteers, student interns, in classes and in their private lives.”
Seattle Pets Examiner will post updates to this story as they occur.
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