The Sanctuary

Great Ape Sanctuary Refuge. Peaceful. Home.

If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.
- St. Francis of Assisi

Our sanctuary home is located in Wauchula, on over 100 acres a few miles from the beautiful Peace River in south central Florida. The tropical forest setting of oak, pine, magnolia, sweet gum, willow, bamboo, palm, guava, mango, ginger, banana, and other exotic fruit trees is similar to great apes' native habitats. The heavily wooded environment is surrounded by hundreds of acres of grapefruit and orange groves.


In the midst of the tropical forest surroundings, the chimpanzees and orangutans each live and play in one of the twelve large three-story high domed enclosures. The largest of these outdoor living areas are from 50 to 80-feet long and 34-feet tall. The habitats provide plenty of running room, climbing space, and height for swinging through their environment. All outdoor habitats have a variety of climbing structures and swinging vines as well as numerous toys, tubs, culverts, and enrichment devices.

Additionally, there are three other enclosures for quarantining new arrivals and a special new habitat for our handicapped and geriatric apes.

Chimpanzee Habitat at the Center for Great Apes Ape Habitat at the Center for Great Apes Orangutan Habitat at the Center for Great Apes
Three-story tall chimpanzee habitat Two outdoor areas are geodesic domes New orangutan habitat under construction
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Night Houses

Each large habitat has attached night houses which not only provide a place to sleep at night, but also a place to rest during the day if they wish to retreat from summer rainstorms or the hot Florida sun. The night houses have high nesting areas, hammocks, and bed-shelves. They are heated in the winter and are strong enough to safely withstand Florida hurricanes.

All indoor and outdoor habitats have security cameras and audio monitors so the staff can see day and night from several locations that the apes in each nighthouse are safe and well.

Chimp Sanctuary Pongo the Orangutan in his Habitat Chimp House at the Center for Great Apes
Chimps watch out the window of their bedroom Pongo inside one of his rooms The largest of six chimp houses has 8 separate rooms
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Elevated Tunnel/Chute System

Our residents are free to explore, using a unique feature of our facility - an elevated 3500-foot tunnel system which meanders more than half a mile through the property. This chute system connects all the enclosures allowing both the orangutans and the chimpanzees the liberty to run through the woods and across the creek. They enjoy going over to watch other groups of apes at the sanctuary as well as following the staff and visitors around the Center.

Grub the Chimpanzee in his habitat Chipper the Chimp crosses the cross at the Center for Great Apes Orangutans playing at the Center for Great Apes
Grub strolls through the chutes to dome Chipper crosses over the creek Orangutans play in the 25-foot tall arch with a far reaching view
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Special Needs Habitat

A specially designed indoor and outdoor area suited to the unique needs of handicapped and older apes has been completed in 2008. The first resident is our young chimpanzee with cerebral palsy, Knuckles. The outdoor areas are designed to be long, but narrow so that while residents have 60-feet of "walk-ahead" space, they are only 15-feet away from any of several doors leading into the night rooms. So, when a big storm is coming, or very cold weather is near, the staff has only a short distance to bring them inside for safety.

The inside rooms have special adaptations also. One entire cage wall moves to gently push a resident back to a corner so that when there is the need to administer treatment or medication, the resident can be contained and safely handled through the cage mesh by the caregiver staff. There is also special rubber flooring installed to insulate and cushion against injury. Video and audio equipment installed here allows 24-hour monitoring by the staff.

Support handicapped chimps and apes Kodua and Knuckles, both Chimpanzees, play outside in their habitat Help Support Knuckles, a young chimp with cerebral palsy
Special Needs facility for handicapped and geriatric apes Kodua visits Knuckles in one of two outdoor play areas Indoor rooms have rubber flooring and moveable cage wall
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Arcus Great Ape Health Center

Appropriate veterinary care is a critical part of providing care for sanctuary animals. Routine health checks, periodic physicals, and when necessary, emergency care are handled in the Arcus Great Ape Health Center. This facility includes the veterinary clinic, weigh station, recovery room, and indoor/outdoor quarantine facility for new arrivals.

Great Ape Health Center Keep Apes healthy at the Center for Great Apes Arcus Great Ape Health Center
Veterinary clinic and outdoor quarantine area Scrub prep entrance Examination room
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Food Prep Center

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.

What do chimps and apes eat? Fresh fruits and vegetables Chimp and ape diets Radcliff the orangutan peeks in at the food prep area
A variety of fresh vegetables and fruits are fed daily Food prep building Radcliffe peeking in kitchen window at his lunch
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Office and Library

The Center's office is located in a geodesic domed house built thirty years ago. All the activities needed to run the sanctuary - fundraising, grant-writing, membership renewals, special events, accounting, human resources, and communications are carried out by several staff members and volunteers.

A classroom library containing hundreds of books and films about orangutans, chimpanzees, and other primates is available to students, interns, and Center members who are interested in furthering their study and knowledge of great ape behavior.

Chimpanzee Sanctuary Center for the Great Apes Great Ape Library
Center office Front office and meeting rooms Students and interns use the classroom and library
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Maintenance Shop

Repairs and maintenance on the enclosures and sanctuary facilities is a full-time job for several workers. Keeping up with cage maintenance and welding repairs is the main priority, but our skilled facility staff and volunteers also handle plumbing, electric, septic, and equipment repairs as well as regular preventative maintenance of appliances, drainage systems, vehicles, the physical buildings, and grounds clean up.

Ape Sanctuary Facilities Maintenance at the Center for Great Apes Ape and Chimp Habitat
Maintenance workshop outside sanctuary area Disinfecting donated fire hose for enrichment Maintenance staff clears area for new habitat
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Historic Buildings

A distinctive feature of the sanctuary is the antique barn built in 1911 by the original owner of the property. The land in this area was inhabited by Seminole and Miccosukee Indians in the 1800's as they moved south into the Everglades. At the turn of the century, the "Wauchula Land Grant Company" owned much of the county land and sold parcels to northerners looking to move to tropical Florida. The sanctuary site was first sold in 1910 to a lumberjack from Michigan who moved here with his family of eight children. He lived on the site until he died in his 90's. He continued to use a small two-hole (or two-seater) outhouse which is still located near the old barn he built in 1911 for his cow. These two buildings have seen many hurricanes over the last century - including three in six weeks a few years ago. Amazingly, they withstood the hurricanes and continue to sturdily remain on our compound.

Ape Sanctuary Center for the Great Apes Chimp Sanctuary
Two-story barn built in 1911 Grub’s habitat near barn Outhouse with two seats
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Guest Cabins

Two small and rustic cabins at the sanctuary house working interns, volunteers, and special invited guests of the sanctuary. One of the cabins was built in the 1950s for the original owner of the property when he was in his 80s.

Chimp volunteer cabin Ape volunteer guest cottage Become a special guest of the Center for Great Apes and stay on the property
Guest cabin donated by Board member Guest cottage built in 1959 and renovated by volunteers Cabin cedar interior
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