Save the Chimps was originally founded by Carole Noon in response to an announcement from the US Air Force that it would no longer be conducting research on chimpanzees. The chimps were subsequently donated to a biomedical laboratory. Save the Chimps sued the Air Force on behalf of the chimps, and after a year of legal battles, gained custody of 21 chimps descended from forebears who had participated in the NASA space research program. Save the Chimps then purchased a 150-acre sanctuary where it built a 3-acre island with hills, shelter, and climbing structures for the chimps.
Today, Save the Chimps maintains a permanent sanctuary for the care of approximately 300 chimpanzees rescued from research laboratories, the entertainment industry, and households where they were kept as pets. The chimps live on a series of 12 interconnecting islands where they can roam freely. Caregivers come in to feed them, engage them in play without physical contact, and clean their living spaces. Because it does not endorse captive breeding, Save the Chimps performs vasectomies and employs female birth control with its animals. It also limits access to the chimps, only allowing visits from the board of directors, people who are working with the chimps, and specially invited members of the public.