Are you a parent looking for a one-of-a-kind experience your children will remember for a lifetime, an executive searching for a way to reward exemplary employees or entertain A-level clients, or a member of a civic organization who’s in charge of planning an outing that will be both educational and enlightening?

A $2,500 VIP Membership to Great Ape Trust may be the answer in all three circumstances. VIP member tours accommodate groups of up to 50 people, which can reduce the cost of the visit to $50. Visits can be tailored to the size of the group and, to the extent possible, respond to an individual group’s interests. In general, the smaller the group, the more intimate the experience with The Trust’s orangutan and bonobo residents.

A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Great Ape Trust each year receives dozens of requests from families, civic groups, schools, clubs and other nonprofit groups asking to visit the 230-acre campus, learn more about breakthrough scientific research and be in the presence of great apes. The membership program is designed to strike a balance between the public’s interest in visiting with the proprietary needs of the breakthrough scientific research.

“We’ve offered private tours to small groups for the past several years and they’ve been very rewarding for those members, however, they were limited to about six people,” said James Aipperspach, operations director at Great Ape Trust. “Because of increased interest for private tours, as well as the current economy, we decided to expand to include larger groups and accommodate those needs.”

By supporting Great Ape Trust at the VIP level, members also get the satisfaction of knowing that they are significantly supporting Great Ape Trust’s breakthrough scientific research on great ape intelligence and behavior, and conservation efforts in Indonesia and Rwanda to preserve the habitat wild great apes depend upon for survival.

For example, a $2,500 contribution pays for:

Food, supplies and veterinary care to six orangutans for one month;
The salary of one ecoguard with the Gishwati Area Conservation Program in Rwanda for one year;
Two months’ salary for a research assistant at the chimpanzee field station in the Gishwati Area Conservation Program;
Outfitting costs for five Gishwati Area Conservation Program ecoguards, including GPS devices, backpacks, rain gear, boots, compasses, watches, flashlights and binoculars);
Salary, food and equipment for a research assistant at the Ketambe Research Center in Indonesia for one year;
Food, equipment and travel expenses for two Indonesian students conducting research for their bachelor’s degrees at Ketambe for one year.

Great Ape Trust members at the VIP level can tailor their visits. One group, for example, brought fresh garden flowers to the bonobos and Panbanisha took a turn at arranging them. Great Ape Trust photo.

The VIP tours are scheduled on Friday afternoons. VIP visits have been booked in June, but several dates remain available in July, August, September and October. VIP tours will not be conducted on July 3. To buy a membership at the VIP level, please call (515) 243-3580 and a Great Ape Trust representative will assist you in scheduling a tour and working out details that will make for a memorable experience.

Memberships to Great Ape Trust support breakthrough scientific research on great ape intelligence and behavior, great ape habitat conservation efforts in Rwanda and Indonesia, education initiatives, and other operational costs. Great Ape Trust has a $3.5 million operating budget, which is funded by contributions from Founder Ted Townsend and other individuals, memberships, the sale of merchandise, royalties, site fees and grant funding supporting the research, conservation and education initiatives.


Great Ape Trust of Iowa is a scientific research facility in southeast Des Moines dedicated to understanding the origins and future of culture, language, tools and intelligence. When completed, Great Ape Trust will be the largest great ape facility in North America and one of the first worldwide to include all four types of great ape – bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans – for noninvasive interdisciplinary studies of their cognitive and communicative capabilities.

Great Ape Trust is dedicated to providing sanctuary and an honorable life for great apes, studying the intelligence of great apes, advancing conservation of great apes and providing unique educational experiences about great apes. Great Ape Trust of Iowa is a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit organization and is certified by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

For more information, contact:

Al Setka
Director of Communications
Great Ape Trust of Iowa
4200 S.E. 44th Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50320
(515) 243-3580
(515) 720-7430 (cell)

Beth Dalbey
Communications Editor
Great Ape Trust of Iowa
4200 S.E. 44th Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50320
(515) 243-3580
(515) 314-6773 (cell)