Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

June 11, 2013

Va. man to send 6 chimps to Houston Zoo

Associated Press

MECHANSVILLE, Va. —  Six chimpanzees at a private zoo in Virginia will be sent to the Houston Zoo after the owner was denied permits to keep four of the animals.

The chimps will remain together at the Houston Zoo’s African Forest exhibit, the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago said.

The Lincoln Park Zoo’s Project ChimpCare worked with the owners, Curtis and Bea Shepperson of Mechanicsville, Va., find a new home for the chimps. The zoo said Monday in a news release that the chimps are expected to be moved to their new home later this year.

“We have looked after these chimpanzees for most of their lives, and we will miss them dearly when they go,” Curtis Shepperson said in the release. “But we have always wanted what is best for them, and sending all six chimpanzees as a complete group to Houston Zoo is just that.”

In May, the Hanover County Board of Supervisors rejected Shepperson’s request to obtain permits for four chimps. He has permits for the others. The county has documented at least two escapes from Shepperson’s Windy Oaks Animal Farm.

Shepperson had faced a June 23 deadline to get rid of the chimps or face criminal charges.

“This is an extremely positive resolution for everyone involved, but most of all for the chimpanzees themselves,” Project ChimpCare Director Steve Ross said in the release.

“Keeping the chimpanzees together in their social group is unquestionably the best move for their wellbeing, and the animals are now poised to receive the lifetime care they deserve,” Ross said. “This outcome is a testament to what good can come from cooperation by people on all sides of an issue.”

Beth Schaefer, the Houston’s curator of primates and carnivores, said the zoo is delighted to offer a home to the chimps.