38 ex-lab chimpanzees, under the protection of Gut Aiderbichl since 2009, are now able to enjoy their freedom for the first time — after decades of captivity, when they were often kept in isolation. A ‘practice run’ could not have been more moving. First, 10 ex-lab chimpanzees were able to feel the sun, wind and fresh air. They were in an enclosure covering an area of 2,000 square metres. For three young chimps, born in the research lab, this was the first time they had ever come into contact with freedom. The other chimpanzees were transported to the lab when they were babies. Only three centres for traumatized chimpanzees exist worldwide. One of them is located about 40 kilometres outside Vienna, in Gänserndorf: Gut Aiderbichl’s Sanctuary for Traumatized Chimpanzees and Other Primates.
Tiny baby monkeys and chimps from Africa were captured and transported to the research labs during the 1970s and 1980s. Their mothers were all shot. They defended their babies to the bitter end. Then, years of captivity followed — in isolation.
In 1997 the chimpanzees were finally set free as part of a corporate takeover by the pharmaceuticals group, Baxter. Baxter conducts no research with chimpanzees. The company constructed a monkey house for them in a safari park, where they were resettled in 2002. In 2004, the chimpanzees needed help — the safari park went bankrupt. The chimps did not become Aiderbichler until 2009. Europe’s largest sanctuary for rescued animals, Gut Aiderbichl, has now constructed 11 open-air enclosures at a cost of three million euros. The enclosures were being officially opened in September 2011. Visitors can only see the chimpanzees in small groups, and must enquire and register their visit in advance.