SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – After Tallulah, the chimpanzee group matriarch at the San Francisco Zoo, passed away in 2013, officials had to decide what to do with the other three remaining chimps.

A plan was in place to do away with the chimpanzee exhibit, which would mean shipping out Cobby, Minnie and Maggie. Cobby is 57 years old and the two remaining females, Minnie and Maggie, are both 46, and all have been part of the San Francisco Zoo family for decades.

READ MORE: Support for Windsor Mayor Crumbles as Details of Alleged Sexual Misconduct Emerge

But on Thursday, San Francisco Zoo Executive Director and President Tanya Peterson said they have decided to keep the popular chimps in place, as moving them would not be in the chimpanzees’ best interest.

“They are absolutely part of our family. We consider them one of us, certainly our staff does” Peterson said. “I’m so proud of the staff to try to remove our emotion and make the best decision for these chimpanzees.”

READ MORE: Hundreds at Bay Area Rallies March to Support Asian Americans

After Tallulah died, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums recommended the chimps be relocated because the chimpanzee population at the San Francisco Zoo had fallen below four. The ideal social structure for chimpanzees is in groups of at least four.

The chimp enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo. (Chris Filippi/CBS)

The chimp enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo. (Chris Filippi/CBS)

Peterson said there is a concern because the AZA does have the power to threaten their accreditation.

“They can table our accreditation, which causes us a host of problems,” she said. “That’s what is at risk for us. On the other hand, AZA is made up of good people who understand and love animals and I hope they’ll understand the dilemma we faced.”

MORE NEWS: Former Sebastopol Mayor Arrested on Suspicion of Sexual Assault Against a Minor

Peterson said they plan to now spend at least $250,000 upgrading the chimpanzee habitat.