Former Employees speak out against local Chimpanzee Sanctuary

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UPDATE 08/20/20 – In August, News 12 spoke with two former project chimps employees who were being sued for speaking out against the conditions the chimps were forced to live in.

Now, The project chimps company has dropped the lawsuit.

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Former employees of the Blue Ridge, Georgia animal sanctuary say the chimps are not getting the proper care or medical treatments needed. 

The two employees were being sued for being whistleblowers but they say without a lawsuit involved , nothing will stop them.

“We would like to see improved enrichment that will keep them busy. Instead of something that just takes them a few seconds and then they are done with it. Individualized diets. The big thing is appropriate medical care and preventative medical care,” says Crystal Alba, Former Project Chimps Employee.

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BLUE RIDGE, Ga (WDEF) – In 2014 Project Chimps, in Blue Ridge, Georgia, was founded to help provide life long care for chimpanzees after their time inside a medical research facility. 

Now years later former employees are speaking out against the facility after they say the chimps are not being properly taken care of.

“These chimps have a life expectancy of 40 to 50 years. Some of them are coming to the sanctuary and they are only 9 years old. We have to do better. If they are going to be at a sanctuary for decades they need to be going outside. They do not need to be housed inside a concrete building. FOr that to happen leadership is going to have to be in place. They will have to actually prioritize the chimp’s needs and who has chimp experience,” says Crystal Alba, former employee for Project Chimps. 

Former employees shared Pictures and videos from inside the facility showing the chimps with infectious wounds, low weight , and major hair loss.

The employees say all they want is for the sanctuary to return to the foundations of their mission statement. 

“We want the focus to return to the chimps, how the sanctuary can benefit them and how they can improve their quality of life. It is a sanctuary for chimps; their mission is to care for them. At the core we are just pushing for project chimps to uphold their own mission and to provide the care they promised the chimps,” says Lindsay Vanderhoogt, former employee for Project Chimps. 

Project Chimps addresses this issue on their website page stating that the allegations are riddled with false Allegations , inaccuracies, and misleading information presented out of context. Project Chimps stands ready to openly and honestly respond to our fans and supporters with any questions you may have about such information. For more information on Project Chimps click here.

For more information one Project Chimps Responses to the Help the Chimps Movement click here.

Project Chimps says they are suing Alba and Vanderhoogt for accessing confidential information and making malicious, false, and defamatory public allegations about the operations of the sanctuary and the condition of the primates under its care.

Alba and Vanderhoogt say being sued is worth it to help fight for the chimps to receive better care. There is a GofundMe set up to help pay for lawyers and their fight for the chimps.

More information on the former employees fight for the chimps can be found on their Petition or Website.

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Joeli Poole joined the WDEF News 12 Team in April 2019 as a Reporter and Producer. You can find her reporting during the week and when not on camera; she's producing the 6 and 11 shows. Joeli grew up with a love for reporting, starting in middle school. She has been the anchor for her middle and high school TV stations, along with the Sports Anchor for her College TV Station. Joeli grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and moved to Tennessee when she 10 years old. She went to Cleveland Middle school and Walker Valley High School. She graduated in May of 2019 from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a bachelor's degree in Communications. Being from the area, Joeli loves being able to help tell the stories of her community. In her spare time, Joeli enjoys watching her LSU Tigers, hiking, and playing with her dog. Feel free to email any story ideas at jpoole@wdef.com.