Eleven chimpanzees rushed out from the Liberian bush and descended from trees to the shore, making jubilant sounds to greet the speedboat bringing food. Samantha, the oldest of the group in her mid-40s, along with Mabel, Bullet and the others, eagerly welcomed their daily delivery of pumpkins, rice, plantains and papaya.
These chimpanzees are among 66 that were used for long-term research. The New York Blood Center tested the chimps for hepatitis B and other diseases in Liberia in the 1970s, ending its research about a decade ago.
In March, the center stopped payments to care for the animals, according to the Washington-based Humane Society, which is now helping to support the chimps and seeking a long-term solution.
After years in captivity, the chimpanzees are dependent on human care. They live in six mangrove outcroppings that make up Chimpanzee Island, about 31 miles southeast of Liberia's capital, Monrovia.
The New York Blood Center “walked away from their responsibility,” said
Dr. Fatorma Bolay, director of the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research. “We are doing our best.”
On its website, the New York Blood Center said the animals are owned by Liberia's government and the center's support of the research chimpanzees was voluntary.