Dr. Carole Noon

Dr. Carole Noon

Founder of Save the Chimps

We’re at the end of Carole Noon Lane on the grounds of Save the Chimps, a 190-acres sanctuary in the Florida Flatwoods. The grounds here are divided into twelve three-acre islands, one per ‘family.’ Each parcel is outfitted with hurricane-proof concrete dwellings and what look like oversized park playground structures. During our time on the grounds, some of the chimps have taken an interest in our presence and our interviews, watching bemusedly from their far off perches.

This sanctuary would not be here without the tenacity of its founder, Dr. Carole Noon. It doesn’t take long into interviews with friends and staff before a very clear image comes to light – Dr. Noon was a force of nature who would not take no for an answer.

In 1997, the US Air Force was set to ‘retire’ the 141 chimpanzees in its space program. With only $150,000 and no sanctuary to speak of, Dr. Noon submitted a bid to purchase these animals, unsurprisingly, to no avail. Instead, most of the chimps were sold to the Coulson Foundation, a medical research lab in New Mexico. The chimps would be sent to live in isolation in the dungeons of Coulston, suspended in 5’x5’x7’ metal cages while awaiting the next experiment.

And so, Dr. Noon sued the Air Force in 1997. In 2001, after four years of legal battles, the first chimps arrived at their new home in Florida. Dr. Noon succeeded in her mission and spent the final years of her life dedicated to her cause. In 2009, she passed away at her home on the sanctuary grounds.

Dr. Noon’s legacy lives on in the over 250 chimpanzees who have been rescued from research, entertainment, and the exotic pet trade and who now call Save the Chimps their home.

“One thing about Carole is she did not take no for an answer. If someone told her she could not do something, that was the guarantee she was going to make it happen.”

Film and story by Kelly Guerin. Photos by Jo-Anne McArthur.