For the third year in a row, runners from all around the country gathered in Fort Pierce, Florida to participate in a unique race through the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in the world. Over 500 runners signed up for the Chimpathon, a 16K race that is Save The Chimp's annual fundraiser.
It's the most unusual and spectacular race in the world and we're running for 250 chimpanzees.
Save the Chimps currently has 250 rescued and retired chimps living in 150 acre sanctuary. Some are retired Hollywood actors, some were rescued from research laboratories and others were part of the pet trade.
The unique race allows runners to get a good look at the chimps (and vice versa).
The chimps live on the 12 islands that are separated from one another by water. The water is a natural barrier because chimpanzees can't swim.
Chimpanzees would sink if they tried to swim so the water provides a barrier to where they can be in the open air and we don't need mesh separating us from the chimps.
The staff at Save the Chimps, place the chimps in groups based on temperament. That will decide which island they live on. "The islands create a natural barrier so the chimps cannot come off of the islands," Save the Chimps manager of special events, Rebecca Rodriquez explained.
The sanctuary is a perfect place for people to check out how the chimps live and safely admire them from a short distance.
Runners Nicole Mancini and Joe Taormina competed in the Chimpathon for the second year in a row and plan on continuously supporting the organization. "I really enjoy it because it's something you can't do everywhere. You get to see the chimps while you're running," Taormina said.
"The fact that all the proceeds go to the chimps is a really good cause," Mancini added.
Some of the chimps showed off for the runners. "Sometimes the chimps will actually imitate the runners and while you're running they will get up speed and walk like a human being for about a minute. I think it's cool," Taormina said.
Seeing the public is really enriching for the chimps because they don't get to see it very often. They like watching us just like we like watching them.
The Save the Chimps sanctuary is usually closed to the public. "This is one of the few times of the year that we allow the public to come into the sanctuary. Normally, the chimps here live without any public interaction," Dr. Andrew Halloran explained.
The race increases in popularity every year. This year's third annual Chimpathon saw 500 competitors and raised over $40,000 in proceeds. 100% of the funds go towards taking care of the 250 chimps on site.
It costs $16,000 a year to care for one chimp. So, the Save the Chimps sanctuary relies on donations and fundraisers like this one to maintain the 150 acre property, provide veterinary care and feed the chimpanzees.
Winners in each division received special chimp art. Some of the more artistic chimps like to express themselves artistically via painting. The sanctuary usually sells the paintings, but they also use them as prizes.
If you would like to donate to the Save the Chimps sanctuary, visit www.savethechimps.org