Heartwarming reunion as 4 chimps rescued from roadside zoo hug each other when reunited

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In Fort Pierce, Florida, the animal sanctuary Save the Chimps, welcome four chimpanzees that had been kept at a roadside zoo operated by a former public official convicted of fraud and sentenced to prison. On Wednesday, the organization was granted custody of the chimps by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Welcome April, Anna, Cash and Lucy. The chimps traveled from Ohio to Florida accompanied by a staff of sanctuary workers. The four chimps- ranging in ages from 13 to 26 years of age, had been previously confined in small cages at a roadside zoo called the Union Ridge Wildlife Center.

We were granted custody by the Ohio Department of Agriculture and welcomed the newcomers on Wednesday.

The four are currently being quarantined in large outdoor enclosures for two months. Save the Chimps’ Director of Chimpanzee Behavior and Care, Dr. Andrew Halloran, met the chimps in Ohio to assess how well they would integrate into one of the sanctuary’s twelve chimp islands.

And the most heartwarming moment occurred when the four chimps hugged and groomed each other when finally reunited.

“These are extremely intelligent chimpanzees who deserve the chance to explore a larger world. ‘We look forward to seeing them thrive on a vast island habitat with 15-20 new lifelong companions, with the freedom to choose where they want to be and who they want to be with.’ The sprawling sanctuary provides residents with sophisticated vet care, nutritious meals, and a variety of social and cognitive enrichment.

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The roadside zoo’s owner, Cyril Vierstra, had previously been a fiscal officer for Vinton Township. In October 2022, he pleaded guilty to engaging in corrupt activities, theft while in office and tampering with records. According to public records, Vierstra used “public funds to buy a wildebeest, two owls, windows for a primate exhibit at his zoo” and other personal items not related to the township. In addition, auditors found debit card transactions totaling over $127,000 all used for personal gain.

According to the Courier, Vierstra was sentenced to four years, 11 months in prison and ordered to pay $345,049 in restitution.

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    1. People who abuse, imprison and kill animals should face truly not only prison time but serious financial penalties, the proceeds of which should go to releasing animals from the plethora of abysmal roadside animal cages to vetted, accredited animal sanctuaries. There is no educational rationalization to these horrible places. They do not benefit anyone. We are rewarding human brutality.


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