Monday, October 14, 2002

ZOO LOSES CUSTODY OF YOUNG CHIMPANZEES

2 chimps belong to Weber
By ANDREW WOLFE, Telegraph Staff wolfea@telegraph-nh.com

NASHUA – A judge on Friday ordered the owner of the Greenville Wildlife Park to give up custody of two young chimpanzees, finding that they belong to the owner of the Lowell Spinners baseball team.

Drew Weber sued the Greenville Wildlife Park and its operator, Glen Eldridge, seeking custody of the chimpanzees, Arthur (also known as Ennio) and Phoenix, and charging that Eldridge wasn’t properly caring for them....

Weber did not attend the hearing, but his lawyer, Tammy Richardson of Boston, said he wants the chimpanzees transferred to the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston until their ownership can be finally resolved.

Weber ultimately wants the chimps placed in a Florida sanctuary, having given up on the idea of having them trained to perform at ballgames, Richardson said....

The two chimps came from the Coulston Foundation of Alamogordo, N.M., a controversial, now-defunct chimpanzee research lab.

Some 266 chimpanzees were transferred to the Center for Captive Chimpanzee Care in Fort Pierce, Fla., after the Coulston Foundation shut down last month, according to reports by various animal advocacy groups.

Animal rights advocates had long protested the foundation’s use of chimpanzees for medical and scientific research, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Department of Agriculture both had cited the facility for violations concerning its care of chimpanzees in recent years, according to both agencies’ Web sites.

Weber claims he paid the Coulston Foundation $67,500 for the two chimps, then infants, in March and April 2001....

Both sides agreed that Sid Yost, a Malibu, Calif., animal trainer, was somehow involved in arranging to get the chimps from Coulston, and that Eldridge drove to New Mexico twice to transport each chimp.

Yost himself bought three other baby chimpanzees from Coulston in February, paying $30,000 each, according to Eric Kleiman, director of a California animal advocacy group, In Defense of Animals....