Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History

Photo Essay: Chimp Profiles

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enrichment chimpIn the wild, chimps are stimulated by the plants and animals in their natural environment. But in captivity, intelligent, inquisitive, and active chimps can easily be affected by boredom-which can compromise their overall health. It's for this reason that chimp caretakers like Gloria Grow provide enrichment for her resident chimps. Food, toys, and activities are all forms of enrichment.
RON- PART IIHaving lived on a floor of concrete and surrounded by bars for his entire life, Ron was understandably hesitant to venture out to the green grass and the open sky at his island sanctuary at Save the Chimps. In fact, Ron did not venture out his first day at the sanctuary. Dr. Carol Noon says Ron came out of his pen the very next day and has been loving his time in the sanctuary ever since.
TODDYToddy is a 31-year-old female. She has been comfortably and safely living at the Center for Great Apes for the past seven years but her life has not always been so simple. When she was a baby, Toddy was captured in the wild. As a youngster, she suffered from seizures which a veterinarian discovered was the result of bullet fragments lodged in her brain- most likely from her violent capture as a baby. Toddy was raised as a pet but was passed from human family to human family. After years of changing hands, she wound up at a breeding farm where she had four babies but was not allowed to raise any of them. After living with a group of chimpanzees at the breeder's farm, Toddy was separated due to health problems and kept alone in a small cage for several years. Her only companions were her caregiver at the breeder's farm and a stuffed toy gorilla that she carried with her at all times. She now lives at the Center for Great Apes sanctuary in peace. Despite her cruel past, Toddy captivates everyone she meets with her sweetness.
JESSEJesse is about 17 years old . She was an entertainment chimp , even appearing in movies, until she became too large and strong to work anymore. It was then that she was put into a breeding situation. Within one month of her arrival at the Center for Great Apes sanctuary, Jesse had an infant. Though she's had numerous babies before, this is her first opportunity to raise her own infant.
BILLY JOEBilly Joe's life started as a circus chimp. It was during this time that all his teeth were removed. After 15 years of the circus, Billy was "retired" to a life as a research subject. In 14 years at the LEMSIP, Billy was knocked down over 289 times - 65 by dart with 4 or 5 men surrounding his cage pummeling darts into his body to anaesthetize him for a routine blood draw. In the lab he would shake his cage back and forth trying desperately to prevent anyone from approaching. In addition to being infected with HIV, Billy endured some 40 punch liver biopsies, 3 open wedge liver biopsies, 3 bone marrow biopsies and 2 lymph node biopsies with no tangible or practical results. Billy was so stressed at LEMSIP that he once chewed off his thumbs after waking up from anesthesia with no one was around to care for him. During one fit of anxiety, Billy bit off his index finger. Anxious, aggressive, and fearful, Billy often banged incessantly on his cage, rocking and staring into space when left alone. Even at the Fauna Foundation, Billy was plagued by anxiety attacks-attacks so bad that they left him choking, gagging and convulsing. But Gloria and the other caretakers still describe him as their "sweet prince" and say he loved to feel loved. Sadly, Billy died in February 2006 at the young age of 37 years. The cause of Billy's death is suspected as being from a heart attack. The Fauna Foundation misses him dearly.
TOMTom was born in Africa and spent his first 30 years as a laboratory chimp. When he was about 15 years old, he was sold to the LEMSIP laboratory. In his subsequent 15 years at LEMSIP, Tom was "knocked down" (or anesthetized by dart gun) over 369 times. In 1984, he was inoculated with HIV and spent the rest of his lab years for vaccine research. This required some 56 punch liver biopsies, 1 open liver wedge biopsy, 3 lymph node and 3 bone marrow biopsies. Plagued constantly by intestinal parasites, he often had diarrhea and no appetite. When he had some strength, Tom banged constantly on his cage. Though he lacks the necessary social skills to be a part of a social group, Tom is a very likeable fellow who loves to socialize with both chimps and humans as well as adorn himself with baseball caps and socks. He is not only fashionable, he's also talented. He is a chimp artist whose paintings have been sold at auctions.
JEANNIEJeannie was most likely born in the lab, quickly taken from her mother and raised by humans who cared about her only as a research subject. As a 13-year-old in 1988, Jeannie arrived at New York University's research laboratories (LEMSIP). During her time at LEMSIP Jean was constantly given vaginal washes and cervical biopsies. She was often treated for self-inflicted wounds in the early years. By the time she was 20, she was inoculated with HIV. Following a study in 1995, Jeannie had a nervous breakdown. For the next 2 years she was heavily medicated but still had aggressive seizures during which she screamed continually, ripping her fingernails off and thrashing out at anyone who came near her. Jeannie is not living with all the other chimpanzees yet because of the emotional difficulties she has been left with but she continues to show improvement.
ENRICHMENTIn the wild, chimps are stimulated by the plants and animals in their natural environment. But in captivity, intelligent, inquisitive, and active chimps can easily be affected by boredom-which can compromise their overall health. It's for this reason that chimp caretakers like Gloria Grow provide enrichment for her resident chimps. Food, toys, and activities are all forms of enrichment.
SUE ELLENSue Ellen is a tiny chimpanzee who was born in 1968 and spent her first 15 years with Billy Jo in a human household. Though she was treated as a human child, she was also expected to work and so was used to entertain humans in the circus. When she became an unruly teenager, Sue Ellen was sold for research to New York University's primate research facility LEMSIP. In her first year as a research chimp, Sue Ellen withstood 29 liver biopsies. In future years she would endure another 11 liver biopsies, 3 rectal biopsies and 4 lymph node biopsies. Sue Ellen would eventually be infected with HIV and was used repeatedly for reproducing chimp babies, all of which were destined for research. Though she was probably a very social and outgoing chimpanzee early on in her life, Sue Ellen is mistrustful of humans and prefers her chimpanzee friends, Pepper, Annie, and Chance. She spends most of her days playing, resting, eating, and socializing at the Fauna Foundation.
THOTOYou might say that Thoto, a 44 year-old male, has lived the lives of many chimps. Thoto was born in Africa, captured at a young age and sold to the circus. It was probably during his circus years that all of his teeth were extracted. After enduring the emotionally and physically stressful life as a circus chimp, Thoto became a pet for a long time until he was finally sold to a research lab. Thoto, who is one of Ron's closest friends, now lives a cage-free life at his island sanctuary at Save the Chimps.
RONNot much is known about RON's life before he was used for research. What is known is that Ron spent most of his life at NYU's LEMSIP facility. In 1996, LEMSIP closed its doors, but Ron would not be lucky enough to be spared more time in research and was sent to the Coulston Foundation where, according to his medical records, he lived a grueling existence. The many studies he was used for required that Ron be "knocked-down" (anesthetized with a dart gun) sometimes every day for a month. In 1999. Ron was recruited into an experiment called Spinal Dynamics in which researchers removed one of his spinal disks. To accommodate his pain from the experiment, Ron was given 3 days of ibuprofen. When Dr. Carole Noon and Save the Chimps found Ron at Alamorgordo, he was living alone in building 300. They suspect that he's always lived alone.
LOU42-year-old LOU was captured from the wild in Equatorial Africa as a baby. Lou was two years old in 1966 when the Air Force acquired him for the Space Program. By the 1970s, the Air Force stopped using chimps and began leasing them out for biomedical research. And so, as early as his third birthday, Lou was enduring bone marrow and liver biopsies for pharmaceutical development studies. When he was mature enough, Lou went into a breeding program. Lou has lived in Alamogordo, New Mexico for most of his life but is now safe under Dr. Carole Noon's supervision at Save the Chimps.