Photos: Chimpanzees Removed From Local Roadside Zoo Following Push From PETA

For Immediate Release:
April 17, 2023

David Perle 202-483-7382

Wilkesville, Ohio – Four chimpanzees—April, Anna, Lucy, and Cash—have just been rescued from the Union Ridge Wildlife Center, formerly operated by notorious animal exploiter and convicted felon “CY” (aka Cyril Vierstra), by officials from the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries–accredited Save the Chimps chimpanzee sanctuary in Florida. The rescue follows formal complaints to both the ODA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) by PETA, which also assisted with funding the animals’ sanctuary care.

PETA had called on the ODA to investigate CY’s failure to notify the agency of his possession of a chimpanzee named Tonka—who was part of a PETA federal Endangered Species Act lawsuit—and his failure to obtain and submit the legally required import permit and health certificates for him. CY admitted to PETA that he had kept Tonka—who appeared alongside actor Alan Cumming in the film Buddy—from July 2021 to February 2022, after his former owner falsely claimed to PETA that he had died and brought him to CY in violation of a federal court order requiring that he be sent to an accredited sanctuary. PETA was able to locate Tonka and arrange for his transfer to Save the Chimps, where he’s reported to be thriving.

“It’s a happy new chapter for these four chimpanzees, who will have a great life, with lush grounds to explore and the opportunity to socialize with others of their kind,” says PETA General Counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “PETA urges everyone to steer clear of roadside zoos as if animals’ lives depend on it—because they do.”

PETA is following up with the USDA on its complaint urging the agency to take action against CY, who pleaded guilty last year to multiple felonies relating to his theft of $287,565.11 in public funds.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment” and which opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview—has facilitated the rescues of 24 chimpanzees from the entertainment industry, the pet trade, and roadside zoos such as the Union Ridge Wildlife Center.

For more information, please visit, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind