MECHANICSVILLE, Va. (WTVR) - A Hanover County man who fought to keep six chimpanzees on his Mechanicsville property has agreed to turnover the animals to a Texas zoo. The chimpanzees will be moved to the Houston Zoo later this year, according to a statement from the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Project ChimpCARE.
“This is an extremely positive resolution for everyone involved, but most of all for the chimpanzees themselves,” Dr. Steve Ross, head of Lincoln Park Zoo’s Project ChimpCARE and chairman of the chimpanzee Species Survival Plan (SSP), said in the statement. “Keeping the chimps together in their social group is unquestionably the best move for their wellbeing, and the animals are now poised to receive the lifetime care they deserve. This outcome is a testament to what good can come from cooperation by people on all sides of an issue.”
The chimpanzees' owner Curtis Shepperson had until June 23 to come up with a plan to move the animals.
“We have looked after these chimpanzees for most of their lives, and we will miss them dearly when they go,” Shepperson said in the statement. “But, we have always wanted what is best for them, and sending all six chimpanzees as a complete group to Houston Zoo is just that.”
Under Hanover County rules, Shepperson was allowed to keep two chimps on his private farm off of Route 360. Three years ago the county discovered he was breaking the rules by keeping four additional chimps against county policy. In 2010, leaders gave Shepperson two years to find homes for the chimps. When the deadline passed in December 2012, he was granted a six-month extension.
In a December 2012 interview, Shepperson said chimps were like family and he would be devastated to lose them.
Some neighbors had been leery about Shepperson's chimps.
“The animals are dangerous. I have bought weapons for my wife,” neighbor Kip Davis said. “It’s not a question if they will escape. It’s a question of when they will.”