Saturday, September 29, 2012

A young woman sets an example for the directors of the Great Ape Trust Bonobo Hope

Ashley Rood acted when she discovered a wallaby's death.

Ashley Rood could have walked away and never looked back. She could have let the animals at Reston Zoo continue to suffer under an abusive director. But she didn’t. She may have quit her job, but she never quit on the animals who needed her help. I find that awe-inspiring.

On Friday, the director of Reston Zoo was found guilty of animal abuse. In this particular case, Meghan Mogensen drowned a wallaby who had an injured eye but, according to testimony at her trial, it was only her latest cruelty. Reston Zoo is not accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, so it is not obligated to live up to AZA standards of humane care. Still, new people come to work at the zoo, unaware of Mogensen’s history of shooting animals who need to be euthanized, and they dedicate themselves to the animals. I suspect that’s what curator Ashley Rood did when she started working there. Ashley reached a point, however, when she had enough of Meghan Mogensen’s bullshit, and she did the right thing for the animals. She made a tough decision to do the courageous thing and she reported Mogensen to the authorities.

“Rood, who has been searching for work since she resigned from the zoo, said outside court that the outcome justified her decision to come forward,” according to the Washington Post. “It made everything I did worth it,” Ashley said.

See, there are good people who take the right and proper action when they see a wrong, even though it involves a personal sacrifice.

When I read about Ashley Rood, I can’t help but think of the members of the Board of Directors at the Great Ape Trust / Bonobo Hope / Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary. I’ve been really hard on them, maybe too hard. Maybe they were unaware of Sue Savage-Rumbaugh’s history, or of the complaints lodged against her through the decades.

Great Ape Trust board members, like Rood, have found themselves in the middle of a morass not of their making. And they, like Rood, have an opportunity to do good, to act for the benefit of the animals. Like Rood, they can act despite the hardship on themselves.

The directors of the Great Ape Trust have a tremendous opportunity. They can each make the hard decisions they know they have to make. I don’t know these people, but I see where they are in life. They didn’t get where they are because they took the easy way. These aren’t some schmucks off the turnip truck. They are leaders in their fields, respected in their positions. They are smart. I’m sure they joined the board because they wanted to contribute to the greater scientific understanding of great apes and humankind.
They wanted to advance science; they wanted to contribute to a great cause. They still can, and I think they will.

Each man and woman on that board will, I believe, stand up and say “enough.” They will decide to end the debacle that has the global ape research community shaking its collective head in disgust. (The bonobo posts in this blog have topped 12,000 views, from 78 countries, for just the past 3 weeks!) They recognize that the lack of vigorous research has doomed any respectability once garnered by the Great Ape Trust. And they, like young Ashley Rood, will act for the benefit of the animals.

The members of Board of Directors of the Great Ape Trust Bonobo Hope find themselves in a position they likely never imagined. I believe they are people of integrity. When they act, as they must, we will honor them for their insight and their fortitude. Just as we honor Ashley Rood today.
See more about the Great Ape Trust Bonobo Hope.


  1. These board members can take a stand against the insane level of cruelty and abuse that goes on daily at GAT. Whatever it takes, no matter how long this debacle takes to finally burn out...they must stick with it and do the right thing. The bonobos must be moved and given physical and mental care asap. I encourage the board members of GAT to act swiftly in order to stop this cycle of abuse to both bonobos and the humans directly involved in their care.

  2. i believe the GATI Board will do the right thing. They have tried before but must stick to their guns now and prevail to secure the safety of Kanzi and the other bonobos. Even though there may be a court case to resolve the ownership issues, the bonobos need to be moved sooer rather than later. Hopefully, the board will collectively move to settle this for the sake and benefit of the bonobos!

  3. I certainly hope the board speaks up very soon and takes a public stance. They must stop this cycle of voting in a new board to please Sue and her whims. They must vote to relocate the bonobos asap. They must thanks publicly those who have helped them. If they fail to do these 3 things they will fail the bonobos and nothing will change.

    Anybody know what is going on??

    1. Earlier this week I asked board chairman Ken Schweller and several other board members for an update and -- probably not surprisingly -- no one replied.

      I wrote this blog post during a brief shining moment of hope, but that moment has passed. Are the current board members heading for the hills, and leaving Sue with new members who will, again, drink the Kool Aid and do her biding? I very much fear that may be the case...