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Jane Goodall: Release Hercules and Leo to Sanctuary (VIDEO)

By Lauren Choplin

For over 60 years, Dr. Jane Goodall has been an extraordinary force for good for chimpanzees—helping millions of people better understand them, working tirelessly to protect their habitats, and serving as a powerful voice of opposition to their exploitation.

In a new video message published on The Dodo, Dr. Goodall speaks out on behalf of two chimpanzees—Hercules and Leo—who have been exploited all their lives and now have a real chance at freedom.

We are asking everyone to join in the fight to #SaveHerculesandLeo.

Hercules and Leo are clients of the Nonhuman Rights Project. Dr. Goodall (a board member of the NhRP) joins us in calling upon their “owner,” the New Iberia Research Center, to send them to sanctuary at Save the Chimps, which has generously offered to take care of them for the rest of their lives at a cost exceeding two million dollars. Here is the full text of Dr. Goodall’s statement:

This is Jane Goodall. I have been following for some time now the sad lives of both Hercules and Leo, and I really urge New Iberia to release them to sanctuary so that they can live out the rest of their lives in dignity. And, surely, there can be no good reason to prolong their lives of servitude. So please, I beg of you, do the right thing. We’ll all be so grateful, especially Leo and Hercules. Thank you.

Now almost ten years old, Hercules and Leo were both imprisoned for six years at Stony Brook University so that anatomy researchers could study the evolution of upright walking in humans. This research involved dozens of administrations of general anesthesia and the insertion of wires into their muscles, as well as the ongoing deprivation of their freedom and anything close to a natural habitat or the opportunity to bond with other chimpanzees.

Last year, the Nonhuman Rights Project argued for their release in a habeas corpus hearing—the first of its kind in the world on behalf of a nonhuman animal—after Justice Barbara Jaffe had ordered the New York Attorney General to appear in court to justify Hercules’ and Leo’s continued detainment.

After we filed suit, Stony Brook announced it would no longer use Hercules and Leo in research. For a time, it seemed that New Iberia would agree to send them to Save the Chimps. But New Iberia was not acting in good faith; suddenly, Hercules and Leo were spirited back to New Iberia in Louisiana, where they are being warehoused in a massive research facility along with thousands of other primates.

We want Hercules and Leo to spend the rest of their lives in an environment that respects their autonomy and bodily liberty. New Iberia does not care and cannot plausibly claim to. These are the people who have exploited them (and thousands of other primates) for years. These are the people who have been prosecuted and fined numerous times for Animal Welfare Act violations by the USDA.

If you agree that Hercules and Leo deserve immediate release to sanctuary, we are asking you to stand with us and Dr. Goodall to #SaveHerculesAndLeo.

Here’s what we need you to do:

  • Share this post with as many people and on as many networks as possible.
  • Create your own 30-second video message to become part of our new public pressure campaign directed at the new Governor of Louisiana and the Interim President of the University of Louisiana System (of which New Iberia is a part). Share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (note Instagram’s 15-second video limit), and all your other networks. Use the hashtag #SaveHerculesAndLeo and tag us in your post. *Please be mindful of how you’re representing the cause (i.e. no swearing or vitriolic language. Our goal is to persuade, not antagonize!).
  • If you’re not on social media, send your video message to with the subject line #SaveHerculesAndLeo.
  • Learn more about our public campaign here and find out how else you can help here.

Much of our work takes place in and around the courtroom. But just as important to achieving real change in the lives of chimpanzees and other nonhuman animals are people like you who, along with experts like Dr. Goodall, don’t hesitate to speak out about the injustice of imprisoning them.

Thank you for your help and support!

For more information on Hercules’ and Leo’s case, visit their Court Cases page. 
To read and download Dr. Goodall’s affidavit submitted in support of the NhRP’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus for Kiko, visit this page.  

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