He's 30 years old and wears purple boxer shorts and pink sunglasses. Until recently, he lived in a 5-foot-by-7-foot cage in New York City.

Although he held an important research job, Billy Jo the chimpanzee was headed for life in a warehouse, with no friends and nothing to do. Then two Canadians gave him and 14 other chimps in similar situations a home on their farm.

Billy Jo and friends were part of a research project at New York University to find a cure for AIDS and hepatitis.

Life at the lab was painful and lonely. The chimps had many operations, tests, and shots. One chimp had 137 liver operations. Another was tranquilized, or knocked out with drugs, 279 times.

Chimps have a lot in common with humans. That's why they're used to test drugs that fight deadly diseases. Luckily, those diseases, which often kill humans, don't kill chimps. They did, however, suffer disabilities.

Animal-rights activist Gloria Grow and veterinarian Richard Allan worried about the chimps. They decided the chimps, who can live to be 60 years old, deserved a nice retirement home.

Other chimps aren't so lucky. Chimpanzees are an endangered species. Only about 200,000 remain.

Grow's new friends seem happy now. After years of living alone they didn't know how to act around others. Now they hug each other after they have a fight.

Scholastic News, Senior Edition, 3/23/98