In Memory of Dr. Steve Ross
Chimp Haven is mourning the loss and celebrating the memory of beloved primatologist and longtime leader and friend of the sanctuary, Dr. Steve Ross. Steve dedicated his career to the care and study of chimpanzees and was a tireless advocate for their welfare. As one of the sanctuary’s earliest friends and supporters, Steve later went on to serve more than 15 years on Chimp Haven’s Board of Directors, including many years as board chair.
In addition to serving as the director of the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes since 2012, Steve was a fixture of the sanctuary community, and worked tirelessly to help countless chimpanzees used in biomedical research, the entertainment industry, or as pets find sanctuary homes.
Steve spearheaded an unprecedented partnership between the Lincoln Park Zoo and Chimp Haven, and under his leadership the two organizations have collaborated frequently to advance care for chimpanzees everywhere. Among his many contributions to chimpanzee welfare, Steve advocated for all wild and captive chimps to be included on the Endangered Species List, a critical step to ending the chimpanzee pet trade.
On the Board of Directors at Chimp Haven, Steve’s leadership was instrumental to the historic effort to expand the sanctuary and ensure retirement for hundreds of former research chimps. He was personally invested in giving chimps with a difficult past a second chance at sanctuary, including a chimp named Joseph, who despite social challenges was able to integrate and live happily in a group of 11 chimpanzees at Chimp Haven. Under his leadership of the board, a historic milestone was reached in 2018 when for the first time in United States history more chimpanzees were living in sanctuaries than in research facilities; the next year, Chimp Haven become the world’s largest chimpanzee sanctuary.
Amy Fultz, co-founder of Chimp Haven and a longtime colleague of Steve’s, reflected on the impact his work has had in their field: “If you work with great apes today, chances are you’re connected to Steve somehow. The influence of his life and work is immeasurable and will no doubt continue to be felt by chimpanzees and people who care for them all over the world.”
Amy shares that she’ll always remember Steve saying, “But chimps!” as a way of reminding himself and his teammates just how lucky they were to be able to work with his very favorite species.
“Steve’s impact on our sanctuary, for chimpanzees throughout the world, and for countless individuals who work with great apes today cannot be overstated, and all of us at Chimp Haven will deeply miss his leadership, advocacy, caring friendship, and sense of humor,” shared Rana Smith, Chimp Haven President and CEO. “We will continue to honor Steve’s lifelong commitment to chimps and his inspiring vision for their care and future in our work here at Chimp Haven and on behalf of chimpanzees everywhere.”
If you would like to make a donation in Steve’s honor, his family requests that gifts are made to Chimp Haven or the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes to ensure Steve’s important work can continue. Donations to the Fisher Center can be made via the Lincoln Park Zoo website, with specification of Fisher Center/Dr. Steve Ross in the tribute section.