Center for Chimpanzee and Orangutan Conservation Inc d/b/a Center for Great Apes (Wauchula, FL)


  • Name:Sue Dupre
  • Title:Chairman of the Board of Directors

Organization Address

  • Organization Name:Center for Chimpanzee and Orangutan Conservation Inc d/b/a Center for Great Apes
  • Address:P. O. Box 488
    Wauchula, FL 33873
    United States

Organization Phone

  • Main phone:8637678903

Organization Web

User Email


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  • Mission:
  • Our mission is to provide a permanent sanctuary for orangutans and chimpanzees who have been rescued or retired from the entertainment industry, from research or from the exotic pet trade. We provide care with dignity in a safe, healthy and enriching environment for great apes in need of lifetime care. At our sanctuary, great apes who have no option to be returned to the wild, or to be cared for in accredited zoos, are given a new opportunity to live with their own species in appropriate housing with large spaces, good nutrition, health care and daily enrichment. We are one of only a handful of accredited chimpanzee sanctuaries and are the ONLY accredited orangutan sanctuary in North America.

  • Overview:
  • The Center for Great Apes (CGA), located on 120 acres in Wauchula, Florida has as its primary purpose to maintain a permanent sanctuary for those orangutans and chimpanzees that have been used in entertainment or kept as pets by private owners. As these young apes grow too strong and too large for such situations, they often end up as discarded “surplus” apes unable to be absorbed by accredited zoological parks. Great apes can live over 60 years in captivity, and many of these former pets and entertainers end up in inappropriate roadside zoos and backyard cages, forced to live in desperate conditions and often becoming the subject of abuse or neglect.

    After a suitable quarantine period, the sanctuary apes are introduced into social groups with each group living in one of sixteen large three-story domed enclosures outfitted with natural oak tree logs for climbing, many ropes and swings for playing, a variety of enrichment toys, and daily fresh browse used for nesting materials. For many of the Center’s residents this is their first opportunity to live with their own species – many have never seen another ape before arrival at the Center. They can leave their dome home and explore the sanctuary through more than a mile of a secure elevated chute system throughout the woods. This engages both their minds and their bodies in exercise. All the apes sleep in attached heated night houses strong enough to withstand Florida hurricanes. Or, on mild nights they may choose to sleep outside.

    All areas, indoors and out, are monitored through closed circuit security cameras mounted in and around the facilities. The large outdoor enclosures are surrounded by a heavily wooded area with many exotic fruit trees, palm trees, ferns, and a flowing creek which provide a tropical setting very similar to the natural habitat of primates in the wild.

    A nutritious diet for the sanctuary residents includes a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables daily. In addition to primate biscuits, all the apes eat a daily diet of three to four fresh fruits, nine to ten different vegetables, plus various leafy greens. Meals are prepared in the Center’s Feed Room which contains a roomy walk-in cooler to store the large amounts of fresh produce required weekly.

    Proper veterinary initiatives are vital to helping our apes overcome any health issues resulting from their living conditions prior to arrival at the sanctuary. Rescued orangutans often arrive at the sanctuary in poor health. They have frequently been fed a diet high in sugar and most have not received adequate exercise. Poor diets and lack of exercise prior to their arrival create lifelong health problems.

    Obesity is an ongoing problem for adult orangutans in captivity. In order to combat increased pounds, the veterinarian works with our food prep staff to develop individual diets for each ape. For exercise, our caregiver staff rewards our orangutans for following a laser pointer around their enclosures and up to the top of the cupolas. We also hide their food in hard to reach places to encourage foraging.

    We currently provide care for 2 special needs orangutans; Mari, who lost her arms while in a research facility and has diabetes; and Allie, who cannot use her legs or feet due to Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy. Allie requires daily physical therapy on her legs and Mari’s sugar must be monitored on a regular basis.

    Veterinary costs for our adult male orangutans have increased due to their unique air sacs and chest wall issues. Fibrosing cardiomyopathy and air saculitis are common causes of illness and death for orangutans. In order to monitor our adult males’ hearts, we are training them to allow us to use a Doppler machine to read their heart impulses. When training is not successful, males must be sedated to conduct testing if a problem is suspected. The requested Centrifuge will help with the monitoring of our orangutans cholesterol levels and overall blood panel results.

    The Center is not open to the public as an attraction, does not receive any type of government funding and does not (and will not) breed or sell infant great apes. All support for the sanctuary comes from individual memberships in the organization, private donor support and grants from philanthropic and protection foundations such as yours.

  • History:
  • The Center for Great Apes has its roots in the rain forests of Indonesian Borneo, where over 31 years ago, in 1984, founder Patti Ragan spent several months volunteering on a rehabilitation project for wild orangutans. During this intense time of living with orangutans and gaining experience caring for orphaned infants, Patti learned to love and appreciate the quiet and gentle nature of orangutans.

    Orangutans are critically endangered and on the brink of extinction, so each individual animal is vital for the future survival of the species. At orangutan rehabilitation centers in Borneo, captured baby orangutans, confiscated back from smugglers, pet owners, and palm oil plantations (where they have ended up in search of food because their food sources have been destroyed and their mothers killed) are helped to prepare for life in the wild. The rehabilitation process can be a long one because infant orangutans normally live with their mother for the first eight to nine years of their life -- until they are ready to face the world on their own.

    Because of her experience with orangutans in Borneo, Patti was asked in 1990 to help care for an orphaned infant orangutan (Pongo) who was held at a tourist attraction in Miami. Believing that the infant was going to eventually be sent to live with other orangutans at an AZA accredited zoo, she was surprised to learn that the owner intended to sell the baby orangutan to a circus trainer. However, because of a serious illness that affected the infant, he was not sold and the owner agreed to allow Patti the opportunity to find an appropriate home for the infant.

    She soon learned that accredited zoos did not want a mixed Bornean/Sumatran orangutan, especially one that was hand-raised. With little or no opportunities for placement in an American Zoological Association (AZA) accredited zoo, and no chance for the orangutan to live in the wild, Patti learned there were (at that time) only two primate sanctuaries in the United States, and neither had orangutans or experience caring for them.

    Around the same time, Patti was asked to also give foster care to an infant chimpanzee (Grub) also living at the Miami attraction. When told the chimpanzee would be sold to work in the shows at a major tourist attraction, she realized there was a real need for a sanctuary in the United States to provide proper care for these great apes.

    After formally establishing a nonprofit organization in 1993, it took four more years to find the perfect location for a sanctuary site that was both affordable and would meet the needs of the ape. She found that place in Wauchula, a small rural community in southern central Florida.

    In her opening letter for our Annual Report (2012+2013), Patti explains it this way: "I established this sanctuary so that five young apes at a tourist attraction would have a safe and permanent future. Starting with Pongo, Grub, Christopher, Kenya, and Noelle and just 15 acres, we've grown to over 100 acres and have rescued more than 50 great apes. Over the years, orangutans and chimpanzees have come to the Center from dark basement cages, roadside zoos, circuses, live stage shows, lonely garages, and breeder compounds to live in a permanent sanctuary home with space, good nutrition, and companions of their own species. There have certainly been difficulties and challenges along the way, but also many rewards and successes.

    As we've rescued great apes needing care, we've continued to expand our facilities to sixteen large outdoor habitats, ten nighthouses, and over a mile of an aerial chute travel system connecting all the ape areas to the veterinary health center. With our heavily forested sanctuary, enclosed habitats were the only safe way to go; the four-story tall outdoor play areas give the apes more climbing space with a higher view and the mile-long aerial chutes allow our residents the ability to roam to other areas and move into different habitats for more enrichment and exploration, replicating some of their natural behavior in the wild."

  • Year established:1993
  • Endowment:Unknown


  • Executive / Trustee board size:12
  • Advisory board size:12
  • Staff size:25


  • Organization type:Grantseeker
  • Country of registration:United States
  • Tax Determination Letter:Received Determination Letter
  • IRS Section:501(c)(3)
  • IRS Subsection:509(a)(1)
  • Tax ID: