Ten chimpanzees from the former Coulston research facility began a 37-hour trip to Florida this week in a specially designed trailer.
Peggy, Carrie, Melissa, Jake, Alice, Ebony, Christie, Garth, Tony and Mikie left Wednesday, the first of 266 chimps that will be transported to Fort Pierce, Fla. Each had a window seat to enjoy the ride.
The chimps once lived in a medical research laboratory in Alamogordo that was operated by Frederick Coulston, who helped develop or test treatments for malaria, hepatitis and AIDS during a 72-year career.
In 2002, Coulston turned the animals over to Carole Noon, director of a recovery group called Save the Chimps. She said the animals will be introduced in Florida to a new colony of chimps and then settle into an island home.
"For the first time in their lives, they are going to walk on grass," Noon said. "No walls, no roof."
According to a news release from the organization, Save The Chimps operates the first sanctuary in the United States devoted exclusively to chimpanzees and the largest permanent chimpanzee sanctuary in the world.
The facility provides lifetime care for chimpanzees taken from research laboratories and former chimp owners no longer able to provide adequate care.
It will take 27 trips to transport all the chimps from New Mexico to Florida.
"We plan to have them all moved by the end of 2007," Noon said.