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New name and public partnership opportunities introduced; details given on arrival of first apes to Des Moines
DES MOINES, IA, June 10, 2004 –-/WORLD-WIRE/-- A world-class great ape research center scheduled to begin operations in Iowa has a new name, a new public partnership program and apes arriving this summer. With a backdrop of work crews and building construction, founder Ted Townsend stood lakeside today on the project’s sprawling campus and unveiled Great Ape Trust of Iowa.

“Two years ago we introduced this project, exactly one year ago we began work on the site – today we take another important step forward,” says Townsend, a Des Moines businessman. “As Great Ape Trust we are even more focused on our mission of research, conservation and education.”

Great Ape Trust began as the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary in early 2002. In June of 2003, work crews began developing the former sand and gravel quarry near the Des Moines River.

Located about five miles southeast of downtown Des Moines on approximately 200 acres of lowlands, river forest and lakes, Great Ape Trust of Iowa will be among the largest great ape facilities in North America and one of the first worldwide to include all four types of great ape: bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans for the study of their cognitive and communicative capabilities.

“Great Ape Trust of Iowa is more than a place or an organization – it’s the experience of a new reality,” says Townsend. “That’s why trust is such an appropriate word – it represents strength, credibility and conviction as well as hope, faith and reliance. It is precisely what the project embodies and what great apes deserve.”


Starting today, the general public has the opportunity to be part of Great Ape Trust and directly support research, conservation and education efforts. The program is called Partners of Great Ape Trust and is available for online registration at the not-for-profit organization’s redesigned Web site,

With gift levels of $25, $100 and $250 supporters will receive exclusive Great Ape Trust merchandise that includes books written and signed by Great Ape Trust scientists, window decals, caps, tote bags, electronic newsletters, Great Ape Trust email addresses and promotional offers.

“We receive calls and emails from the public each day asking how they can support great apes and become involved in our efforts - Partners of Great Ape Trust makes that a possibility,” says Kirk Brocker, executive-director of Great Ape Trust. “The online Partner’s program will serve as the foundation of our grassroots fund-raising efforts and is as boundless as the Internet itself.”


Two orangutans, Azy and Indah, from the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC will be the first apes to arrive at Great Ape Trust of Iowa. Brother and sister, the orangutans have been part of Dr. Rob Shumaker’s Think Tank project at the National Zoo. Dr. Shumaker is director of the orangutan research program at Great Ape Trust and joined the project as a consultant in June of 2003. The building that will house Azy and Indah will be completed in early July; an inspection team from the American Zoological and Aquarium Association (AZA) will visit the site next week – followed by an inspection from National Zoo officials.

“We’re confident we’ll be ready to transfer Azy and Indah to Iowa by next month,” says Shumaker.

The nearly three-story, 30’ by 50’ orangutan structure will serve as a home for Azy and Indah for the next one to two years. Design concepts are currently being created for a larger facility that could eventually house up to a dozen orangutans. The original orangutan building will then be used as additional housing for great apes.


As work crews finalize the orangutan building, construction progresses on the 13,000 square foot bonobo facility. That facility is expected to be completed in the fall of 2004. A family of bonobos will be transferred to Great Ape Trust from Georgia State University’s Language Research Center near Atlanta. Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, whose work with Kanzi has been documented internationally, will direct the bonobo research program at Great Ape Trust.

“What is being created in Iowa for the great apes is phenomenal, but it goes well beyond buildings and research efforts,” says Savage-Rumbaugh. “Great Ape Trust will exemplify the essence and soul of great apes.”


Great Ape Trust is dedicated to providing sanctuary and an honorable life for great apes, studying the intelligence of great apes, advancing conservation of great apes and providing unique educational experiences about great apes. To learn more about Great Ape Trust of Iowa, go to

CONTACT: Al Setka, Director of Communications, Great Ape Trust of Iowa, 1533 Linden Street, Suite 200, Des Moines, IA 50309. Phone: 515.243.3580, Email:

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