Video: Chimpanzee Iris Goes From Squalid Cell to Sanctuary

For the First Time in Years, 32-Year-Old Finds Friendship, Can Climb and Play; PETA Files Complaints With Federal and Georgia Authorities

For Immediate Release:
March 27, 2015

Shakira Croce 202-483-7382

Dahlonega, Ga.

A chimpanzee named Iris has a new friend, space to climb and walk about in, and a comfortable home after years of being kept in isolation. PETA facilitated her rescue and transfer to a spacious accredited sanctuary after finding the middle-age chimpanzee confined to a dark cell with virtually nothing to see or do at the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve & Zoo, a roadside zoo in Dahlonega. Iris had been confined at the roadside zoo since 1999 and apparently had no other chimpanzees to interact with since 2012. She was found being held out of sight in a back room, and she was often seen huddled under a filthy blanket on a metal bench. Contrary to her former owners’ contention, she had no access to an outside area and was confined in dim light inside a small concrete cell day after day, losing musculature from lack of exercise, sinking into apparent depression. For some time after arriving at Save the Chimps, Iris’ eyes appeared bulging and abnormal, apparently a result of having been confined in the dark for so long. As human prisoners who are kept in extreme circumstances have been known to do, she would sometimes smear her feces on the cell walls.

Now, just a few short weeks after her rescue and transport to the beautiful Save the Chimps sanctuary in Fort Pierce, Fla., on March 3, Iris is no longer alone. She was introduced to a male chimpanzee named Abdul within days of her arrival, and the two greeted each other with an embrace and kisses. Iris continues to be introduced to other chimpanzees and will soon have the opportunity to live in a large family group on one of the sanctuary’s lush green island homes. See Iris’ story, including her introduction to Abdul, in this video.

“This once lonely chimpanzee’s story has a happy ending, but animals in squalid roadside zoos still need help, including those who are still at Chestatee,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “PETA is calling on families to stay far away from roadside zoos—and on the authorities to take immediate action against Chestatee.”

In addition to negotiating for Iris’ rescue, PETA has submitted formal complaints to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources over many alleged violations at Chestatee, including, among other issues, housing other primates alone and denying them essential social stimulation, keeping a spider monkey in a bird cage, apparently holding an injured hawk without state or federal permits, and apparently not providing animals with adequate veterinary care.

Broadcast-quality video footage is available here, photos are available here and PETA’s complaints to the authorities are available here. For more information, please visit or click here.

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