Wauchula, Florida, 2012 - The Center for Great Apes, located in central South Florida, is the only wildlife sanctuary in North America to care for both chimpanzees and orangutans. Forty-five former celebrities and ex-pets spend their days climbing and swinging in 40foot tall domed habitats and roaming the wooded refuge through a mile of treetop tunnels and chutes. Many of the apes worked in entertainment during their infant and juvenile years but then became too big to handle around people. Founder Patti Ragan says that when chimpanzees and orangutans are sold as private pets… or worked in circuses, TV advertisements, and movies… they are first taken away from their mothers as tiny infants so they can be trained to be more like humans. But because of their tremendous strength as they grow, they only can be in these situations for about six or seven years. Since great apes can live for 50 to 60 years, many of these former stars end up in dangerous situations or get dumped in unsuitable places.
But the Center for Great Apes provides these primates with a permanent home while rehabilitating them to live again with their own species… with good nutrition and in enriching environments. Located in the middle of orange groves on 120 acres in rural Florida near Wauchula, the sanctuary is not open to the public, but does open its doors once a year in the spring to its member donors. For more information about the Center or membership, go to www.CenterForGreatApes.org