Chimpanzees need to take care of their teeth too—or have someone take care of their teeth for them. That’s why DentalEZ recently donated a full shipment of dental supplies and operatory and utility room equipment to Project Chimps, a rescue organization founded in 2014 and dedicated to the lifetime sanctuary care of hundreds of captive chimpanzees.
The new Project Chimps sanctuary in Morganton, Ga, received NevinLabs steel cabinets, DentalEZ delivery units and operatory lights, StarDental handpieces, and RAMVAC vacuums and compressors. The facility now will have all of the components it needs to conduct complete and optimal dental care for the rescued animals, according to the company.
“It is interesting because as dental professionals, our focus is almost always on our human patients,” said Peter Volk, territory sales manager for DentalEZ. “What most people don’t think about is that all of the animals that they only see on Animal Planet or at the zoo need dental care. Once in a captive environment, these animals need to receive all of the preventive care that we humans are accustomed to.”
A recent transfer carried out by Project Chimps prompted DentalEZ’s donation, as 9 chimps once used as research animals in biomedical testing at the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana were located to the Morganton refuge, where more than 200 chimps eventually will roam free.
The 236-acre sanctuary is located along a temperate rainforest with rolling hills and a lush, green landscape. In addition to offices, a full veterinary clinic, and an upscale kitchen designed by celebrity chef Rachael Ray, the refuge is home to 4 “villas” that can house 10 to 15 chimps each and one larger group building that can house 2 groups of 10 to 15 chimps.
“It’s a very rewarding feeling to know that we are providing the medical and dental equipment to chimps that, up to this point, have spent most if not all of their lives in a research laboratory,” said Volk. “As a DentalEZ representative, it is important that we give back not only to the people in our community but also to those that do not have a voice. It is our calling as dental professionals to make sure that everyone, both human and animal, are treated with the utmost care and respect.”
In 2015, all chimpanzees were designated an endangered species, marking the end of privately funded research on chimps in the United States. Chimpanzees are considered the smartest primate and the closest relatives to humans, which is why the New Iberia Research Center has used 220 of them for medical testing.
The opening of the new Project Chimps sanctuary follows a steady shift away from biomedical research on chimpanzees across the country. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) began significantly phasing out its funding of federal research on chimps in 2013 and announced the retirement of its 50 remaining chimpanzees in November 2015.
The NIH also ended its research support for chimps but did not own the approximately 360 remaining around the United States. Now, the private institutions that own these chimpanzees such as the New Iberia Research Center are following suit. However, due to limited space at existing sanctuaries, the creation of new refuges like Project Chimps is critical, according to DentalEZ.