Due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the uncertainty regarding the spread of the virus, we swiftly made several changes to our daily operations and upended upcoming events.
We don't know if chimpanzees are susceptible to the novel coronavirus, but chances are they are. Chimpanzees in the wild have caught other coronavirus strains, and it's well known that many respiratory diseases are easily transmitted from humans to chimpanzees in captivity and the wild, occasionally leading to fatal pneumonia.
Our first priority is the health and safety of the chimpanzees, and under the direction of our Direct Care Committee, we have chosen to be overly cautious.
Though we don't think of them this way, most (or all, depending on who you ask) of the chimps at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest are considered "elderly" for chimpanzees. Mave, Willy B, and Honey B are the youngest at 30. Negra, who is at least 46, is the oldest. We also know that Burrito has a heart condition, which makes him doubly vulnerable. Chimpanzee hospitals do not exist; all care is our responsibility and must be done onsite.
The first outbreak of the virus in the U.S. occurred outside of Seattle, a couple of hours away from the sanctuary. Our first policy change was to suspend volunteer shifts for those living in and around Seattle and for all remaining staff and volunteers to wear masks and gloves when in the chimp house. As always, anyone who is feeling ill is asked to stay away.
There are now confirmed cases of COVID-19 within our own county, so we have enacted stricter criteria for staff and volunteers, eliminating 95% of the volunteers and leaving us with a bare bones (though energetic!) staff.
Yesterday the governor of Washington banned large gatherings in Seattle for the foreseeable future. Though our HOOT! gala was scheduled a few months out, we decided to postpone it. We are also taking a wait-and-see approach to our summer visitor program for donors. We will not be sending out visit dates this month and may be suspending all visits this summer.
The new date for HOOT! 2020 is Friday, September 18th at Sodo Park in Seattle. Please mark your calendars!
Despite these circumstances, we do still need to raise funds and keep our cash flow in check in order to care for the chimpanzees and cattle and continue our planned expansion.
With our budget and cash-flow in mind, in place of the June 13th in-person gala, we will be holding an online auction and sending you an invitation to join a chimpanzee birthday celebration! Queen Negra's 47th birthday celebration is June 13th and Honey B's 31st birthday is June 11th. June 13th also marks the 12th anniversary of the first seven chimpanzees' arrival to the sanctuary, so there is quite a lot to celebrate!
We are just starting to work on plans for this first ever virtual celebration, and we are actually pretty excited about it. Stay tuned for your invitation to the virtual June 13th party!
In the meantime, please excuse our slowness in sending out donation thank you letters and responding to emails as we adjust to our temporarily reduced staffing.
We still prioritize the daily communication that we send out via the blog - please follow us there! The blog keeps us all focused on what's really important, which is the daily moments of silliness, grooming, or mischievousness that the chimpanzees share with us.
If you are looking for ways to help during these strange times, we could really use some amazing auction items and sponsors for both the June online auction and for September's HOOT! Send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or give me a call (509-470-4440).
Of course cash donations are always our biggest need and very appreciated. Thanks to everyone who signed up to be a Chimpanzee Pal or Bovine Buddy last month. You helped us raise an additional $1,000 from the generous donor who gave a bonus donation for each new chimpanzee and bovine sponsorship.
Oh! And for the the first time, we will be participating in GiveBIG Washington, which is May 6th with early donating starting April 22nd. Our GiveBIG page was just published. More details coming soon.
Wishing everyone the best and feeling very grateful for all CSNW supporters,