Animals at the shelter include primates formerly used in animal research, chimpanzees retired from the United States Air Force (mostly Holloman Air Force Base) and the NASA space program]], and Oliver, a chimpanzee exhibited around the world for many years and often referred to as the "humanzee," because of speculation in the past that he might be part human. Other notable chimps now living there include Willie and Harry who appeared in the film, Project X. Willie played Virgil the chimp, who was taught to pilot planes.
The Texas attorney general took control of the sanctuary in October 2006 after allegations that the facility was "unfit," and that public donations had been misspent while the animals lived in substandard accommodation. An Austin probate court put the sanctuary into temporary receivership and appointed a primate expert, Lee Theisen-Watt, to evaluate the animals' condition and supervise their care. The attorney general asked the court permanently to remove Wally Swett and his associates, and require them to repay some of the funds that were allegedly misspent. In April 2007, a settlement was reached appointing a new board of directors, which the Chicago Tribune writes includes associates of the previous operators, such as Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, a Connecticut-based animal-rights group that funded Swett's defense, and Stephen Tello, Swett's former deputy. A spokesman for the attorney-general's office said in a statement that "[t]he troubling conditions at Primarily Primates have been remedied."
The courts dismissed the lawsuit, but the controversy continued. Both sides made serious allegations against the other, with PETA maintaining a highly critical website called Primarily Primates: Hell On Earth for For Animals.
The Texas Attorney General's office ordered the takeover of the sanctuary on Friday, October 13, 2006, and the appointment of a temporary receiver. Lee Theisen-Watt, a primatologist, was placed in charge of the sanctuary. Citing inadequate conditions, he began relocating animals. Employees of PPI expressed concern that animals would be needlessly killed for treatable illnesses, and questioned many of Theisen-Watt's decisions.
A spokesman for the Texas attorney general's office, Tom Kelley, said: "The troubling conditions at Primarily Primates have been remedied." He confirmed that Wally Swett will be permanently barred from the facility as part of the settlement.
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