FORT PIERCE, Fla. — The 7th annual Chimpathon got underway Saturday at the St. Lucie County Fairgrounds in benefit of the local chimpanzee sanctuary.
The race usually is held through the sanctuary but last year during the pandemic it went virtual so this is the first year they’re hosting it again in person.
For continued safety they’ve adapted the event into what they call a hybrid race.
"So this is a hybrid event that means we’re both in person and virtual runners can run at home. Track their time on their phone submit it online or they can come here in person if they’re comfortable enough to do so. Another thing that we’re doing by doing it virtual is our staff is staying at the sanctuary and not doing it here this year to keep the safety and care of the chimps. Our utmost priority," said Jacob Davis, owner of Southern Timing & Total Race Management.
The sanctuary has over 200 chimps and it costs approximately $23,000 a year to care for a chimp.
All of which come from the pet industry, labs,or businesses that used them for entertainment.
"They’ve all suffered a lot. hardship. But they’re very resilient. It’s really wonderful for us to have this opportunity to give them a chance to learn how to be chimps again," said Save the Chimps CEO Ana Paula Tavares.
Organizers say the sanctuary relies on the money to get supplies and food for the chimps but is about so much more than just the money.
"I do races around here all the time and I can’t tell you how many people don’t even know about the sanctuary right down the road from them and just awareness and donations that can come in after that it really means a lot to us and our number one priority is to care for the chimps and that’s what we’re out here for," said Davis.
People who couldn’t attend the in-person race can still participate until the end of the year by running a virtual race.
Tavares said Save the Chimps is the largest privately funded chimpanzee sanctuary in the word.