The Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary (IPLS) has reinstated Dr. Savage-Rumbaugh to her position as Resident Scientist following an internal investigation regarding allegations about treatment of the IPLS bonobos. In summary, the Primate Sanctuary Investigation Committee discovered the bonobos are well cared for, and following a two-month long investigation, found significant counterevidence against the claims by a group of former employees known as the Bonobo 12.
In September 2012, the IPLS board of directors received a letter from twelve former employees, some of whom were bonobo caretakers, expressing concerns about the safety and welfare of the bonobos. The IPLS board appointed a committee to launch a thorough investigation which generated several hundred emails, several hundred pages of printed documents, and two full days of audio/video interviews.
The investigation covered a time frame of January-October 2012. Dr. Savage-Rumbaugh assumed directorship of the laboratory during that time, and most of the allegations before her term of service were previously investigated by a subcommittee in December 2011. These previous claims were unsubstantiated so they were not included in the current review.
Parties included on the complaint were invited to submit written, video, and/or audio documentation of specific incidents observed firsthand. Most claimants provided information related to the previous 2011 review. Only two of the claimants actually worked under Savage-Rumbaugh. The investigating committee found that for the other ten, many reported events were hearsay.
Current employees, volunteers, students and scientists at IPLS were also interviewed as to the quality of care and research. Many of these individuals attested to Dr. Savage-Rumbaugh’s unique and empathetic relationship with the bonobos, and provided firsthand positive accounts relating to the quality of care, level of enrichment and understanding of the research.
Without any alleged misconduct being verified, and because of the abundance of positive testimony regarding Dr. Savage-Rumbaugh’s care and treatment of the bonobos, the committee could find no substance to the claimants’ allegations.
The investigating committee’s report recommending Dr. Savage-Rumbaugh be reinstated to her position at the research facility was released to the board on November 1, 2012. The board reviewed the report and voted to accept its recommendations at a November 13 quarterly board meeting. With full support from Dr. Savage-Rumbaugh, who removed herself as a candidate for directorship, the board of IPLS also voted that Dr. Gilmore assume the role of Executive Director — to ensure the research project has excellent veterinary care and oversight, recognizing the unique nature of IPLS research and its worldwide interest and recognition.
Furthermore, notable primatologist Dr. Carmen Maté was voted in as new Board Chairperson. Among other roles, Dr. Maté served as research director at the Barcelona Zoo for eight years and was executive director from 2004-2008. Dr. Ken Schweller, previous Board Chairperson, continues as a board member of IPLS. The IPLS Board is composed of fifteen voting members who are primarily PhD academicians with diverse backgrounds and includes a veterinarian and individuals with business experience. Three of the four investigating committee members serve on the board of directors. The committee was headed by a PhD with extensive administrative experience and other three members included a veterinarian, academician, and local business leader.
IPLS is focused on its goal of opening its doors to the public. IPLS passed a voluntary USDA inspection on November 13 in which no non-compliant items were identified. IPLS has met all requirements necessary to receive its USDA Class C exhibitor’s license. More information about public accessibility and visitation will be released as soon as IPLS receives its license in the near future.
Contact: Julie Gilmore, DVM
Phone: (515) 770-4260