Caged chimpanzees move to spacious new home in Florida

CHICAGO Tue Nov 30, 2010 1:13pm GMT

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CHICAGO (Reuters) - Two aging chimpanzees who spent years living in small, indoor cages have moved to a wildlife sanctuary in Florida, ending a seven-year effort to raise funds to build their new homes, rescuers said on Monday.

The chimps, Casey and Murray, were bought as pets and lived in a family's private home in Suffern, New York, until they grew too hard to handle, said Steve Ross, director of Project ChimpCARE, which coordinated the move.

"It wasn't safe to keep them out and about in the house," he said.

The chimps, now about 20 years old, then spent about 12 years in small cages, he said.

Plans for their move began in 2003 when the owners contacted Project ChimpCARE at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo.

It took until this year to raise several hundred thousand dollars needed to build the chimps' housing, move them and add staff for their care at the Center for Great Apes, a 120-acre wildlife sanctuary in Wauchula, Florida, Ross said.

The sanctuary also is home to Bubbles, a chimp that once belonged to the late entertainer Michael Jackson, he said.

Casey and Murray are adjusting to their new home where they have been since last month, Ross said. Together after years of being separated by their wire cages, they are playing and grooming each other, he said.

"Going outside for the first time in a decade, that's a big change," Ross said, who said chimps can live several decades. They are native to equatorial Africa.

Both Casey and Murray were born at breeders, with Casey coming from the same breeder as Travis, a chimpanzee that attacked and badly mauled a Connecticut woman in 2009. Travis, who tore off much of the woman's face, was shot dead by police.

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