DES MOINES (AP) — Members of the Great Ape Trust Board said the research center near Des Moines will remain open with a new fundraising campaign and a new partnership, but its budget will be cut and some apes may be moved to save money.
The trust and Bonobo Hope have joined together to raise money to replace money pulled by founder Ted Townsend on Dec. 31.
Bonobo Hope is a nonprofit organization formed by the trust's senior scientist and researcher Sue Savage-Rumbaugh.
Board Chairman Ken Schweller said Monday that the trust is cutting its $1.4 million budget to probably less than $500,000 and must raise money immediately.
At one point, the trust spent more than $4 million annually and had a staff of several dozen employees. The first apes arrived in 2004.
Great Ape Trust is on 230 acres in southeast Des Moines near the Des Moines River. The center was home to as many as six orangutans. Two remain. There are seven bonobos.
Schweller says the seven bonobos will stay, but the orangutans may be moved to save money.
Townsend was the center's main supporter. When he announced plans for the center in 2002, his aim was to start research projects, then allow them to attract other financing. He told the staff last year that he was stopping the flow of money.
"We are not closing," Schweller said, adding he has "no doubt" the research center will survive.
"We are raising money and trying to stabilize things," he said. "We have no plans to move the bonobos. Only as a last resort would we even consider that."
Schweller said the fundraising campaign will target wealthy donors worldwide.
"Our pitch is going to be the extraordinary resource we have in Iowa," he said, "a resource we just cannot afford to lose. It has made Iowa distinctive in many ways."
Schweller couldn't say how many are on staff now, or how much money the trust has in the bank.
The trust has limited public access, with tours for small groups and individuals. Savage-Rumbaugh said she hopes the trust will be able to add restrooms and the staff needed to handle more visitors.
Schweller said webcams may allow people to see more action at the center. A new installation will allow the apes to communicate with apes at other locations via keyboards connected to the Internet.
Savage-Rumbaugh has worked for decades with Kanzi and Panbanisha, two bonobos who are among the world's most communicative great apes. She said both use the symbol boards and understand some spoken English.
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