DES MOINES (AP) — A financially troubled ape sanctuary near Des Moines that is fighting to stay open will move its seven bonobos unless donors can provide an additional $25,000 by May 15, the chairman of the sanctuary's board said.
The Bonobo Hope Great Ape Sanctuary, originally a research institution with both bonobos and orangutans, was converted to a sanctuary after its founder, Ted Townsend, pulled financing late last year. The last two orangutans were sent to an ape center in Florida in January.
Sanctuary board Chairman Kenneth Schweller said Tuesday that the center has raised half its immediate goal of $50,000.
Schweller said bonobo researcher Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, the sanctuary's executive director, has worked with the bonobos for decades. But her workload makes it impractical for her to also take on fundraising responsibilities. He said they'd like to open the sanctuary to the public for educational visits, but that is impossible with the current staffing level.
"This is a very important goal for us, and we must find a way to give Sue and the staff some breathing space so we can make it happen. We are making good progress on obtaining the necessary exhibitor's license," he said.
The sanctuary was known as the Great Ape Trust, which was founded in 2004 on 230 acres in southeast Des Moines. It was home to as many as six orangutans. Seven bonobos remain.
Townsend had planned to phase out his spending as research grants came in, but the center's scientists failed to attract much grant money and published few professional papers. At one point, the trust spent more than $4 million per year.
The staff plans to begin training the bonobos to travel in crates in case they need to be moved. The facility also wants to hire a full-time caretaker or two after months of staff layoffs to balance the budget, Schweller said.