Tuesday, January 3, 2012

We do it for individual chimpanzees who need help

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Eve. I only remember one celebration when I was a child, in 1960. My aunt and uncle came over and we had a selection of deli meats to make sandwiches. The highlight of the evening was doing The Twist with my dad. When I got older, I tried going out a couple of times, but I had a bad run of awful blind dates or nights when I drank too much to make it to midnight. So I gave up the celebrations over the past couple of decades.

Instead, I like to spend quiet time by myself to reflect on the year past. This year I doubled up on the reflections. In addition to thinking about what was going on in my life (all good), I thought about what was happening to the chimpanzees who need our help. A lot of people deserve a lot of thanks for taking care of the chimpanzees who are society’s discards. I’m not talking about “chimpanzees” as a species, although that is important – I’m talking about individuals, who each have their special needs and their unique challenges.

Clyde, a Midwestern pet rescued in
 November, is on his long road
to recovery.
Rescued by the Center for Great Apes in November, Clyde is on the road to recovery. Captured in Africa as an infant over 40 years ago, Clyde has lived his entire life in a tiny indoor garage cage in the Midwest. Without sunshine or space to exercise, Clyde arrived at CFGA atrophied and extremely thin and pale. In just one month, with new space at the sanctuary where he can walk, and climb, and eat nutritious meals, Clyde is beginning to move with more ease and is putting on some weight.

Save the Chimps completed their Great Chimp Migration in December, bringing the last of 266 chimpanzees rescued from the former Coulston Research Facility to sanctuary islands built especially for them. The “migration” from New Mexico to Florida, in a rig especially outfitted to transport the chimpanzees as trauma-free as possible, began in 2006. Taz, Sarah, Bart, Bradley, Marisha, Alari, Guilder, Howard, Torian and Roady arrived safely at their new home.

At Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, the “Cle Elum Seven” Foxie, Negra, Burrito, Annie, Jody, Missy and Jamie got a beautiful new outdoor habitat where they can explore and play and, well, be chimps. Four years ago, they were living in a dark and dirty basement at the Buckshire Corporation. 

In October, Chimp Haven took in five HIV-infected chimpanzees who spent 30 years in biomedical research. Now, instead of languishing in a bankrupt facility in Texas, JoJo, Doc, Pierre, Murphy and Flick have joined 120 other chimps – most of them elderly and chronically ill – living in a spacious forest habitat in Louisiana.  

We can make 2012 a year of profound change for the chimpanzees who still need our help. Yes, we can help the species as a whole, but we also have the challenge to rescue individual chimpanzees, with their distinct needs and hurts and cares. Hundreds of the chimps are caught up in corporate research projects, while entertainment chimps wear chained collars just like dangerous dogs as they are moved to their latest gig. Not to mention the "beloved" pets in basements and garages…

If we act, we can make 2012 the Year of the Chimpanzee. We need to:
  • get Congress to pass the Great Ape Protection Act, S. 810 and H.R. 1513
  • convince the Fish and Wildlife Service to end double standard of endangered species designation and list all chimps (captive and wild) as endangered
  • stop NIH’s flow of federal money to biomedical research projects on chimpanzees
  • move research chimpanzees into accredited sanctuaries, and find a funding source
  • shine the light on entertainers and marketers who exploit chimps for product promotions and profit
  • pass state laws, if necessary, to stop the sale of chimpanzees as pets.
We aren’t doing these things to save the planet. We are saving individuals like Clyde and Howard and Annie and Doc. We are doing it so that next New Year’s Eve, we can reflect on the year past and name the individuals who were given the chance to be chimps again. Or maybe, be a chimp for the first time in their life.
Help us. Help them.


  1. This, a gazzillion times over. I think the still existing labs should convert themselves to sanctuaries just like the new Mexico one did, but also be made to do so by the governments or whatever, they found that all those tests were useless anyway.
    I think the same should be done for pretty much all vivisection labs, or at least do extremely tight and strict controls on them. With regular checks.

  2. Sophie, I hear where you are coming from. I'm just not sure I trust the labs to provide appropriate sanctuary care. At the Institute of Medicine meeting a couple of months ago, the director of the Oregon National Primate Research Center explained that she agreed with a colleague who called a research chimpanzee “a lovely term: a living medical library.” To the labs, a chimpanzee is not an individual, he or she is an animal model, usually identified by a number. Many (most?) researchers and laboratory managers have a different mindset. Indeed, I would argue they have a profoundly different idea of life itself.