Monday, September 10, 2012

Former employees, others, urge board action NOW to protect the bonobos at Bonobo Hope

This email was sent last night to Great Ape Trust (aka Bonobo Hope, aka Iowa Primate Research Sanctuary) board members. I will not add any words, since the plea is eloquent in its urgency and clarity.  - Dawn

Publicity photo of Kanzi and
Sue Savage-Rumbaugh
To the Board of Bonobo Hope Sanctuary/Iowa Great Ape Trust:

We are the former associates, employees, and friends of the bonobos at GAT. We write to you today because of our collective concerns about the immediate health and safety of the apes. In the past, staff and others outside of GAT have raised concerns about both ape care and institutional management to no avail. Now, we do believe the situation is so dire that there is an immediate danger to the apes' health and life.

It is our belief that Sue Savage-Rumbaugh is not in a state fit to safely oversee the laboratory and bonobo care, and that her management poses a legitimate threat to the well-being of the bonobos. This is largely based on her behavior as observed by people interacting with her. Some of these observations have been brought to your attention before. Her behavior now includes hallucinations, paranoia, removing every competent ape caregiver from the laboratory, releasing the GAT pit-bulls to roam the grounds unsupervised, and unexplained injuries to the apes for which she will blame others.

We urge you to put another person in charge of the laboratory, effective immediately. Savage-Rumbaugh will be almost alone in the laboratory for the next week or two, as staff have been put on various forms of leave. We are terrified that something horrible could happen during that time, on top of the apes not being properly cared for as a result of insufficient staffing.

We urge action and would like to remind you all that it is the responsibility of the Board to take the actions needed to preserve the safety of the apes in this regard. It is the board's responsibility to prevent any imminent harm that could befall the apes should a clear and present danger be presented. 
We urge you to consider the possible consequences of not acting now and ask you to reflect on the decisions you have made over the past 8 months. Are the bonobos better off now than they were a year ago?

We, the undersigned, implore the Board will do the right thing, and ensure proper safety and care of the apes. Given our experience with the apes, we have suggestions as to the best course of actions and are more than willing to share those with you upon request. Again, we urge you to take a proactive stance on this troubling situation.

Janni Pedersen, Tyler Romine, Andrea Jackson, Jackie Mobley, Stephanie Musgrave, Daniel Musgrave, Jen Draiss, Mike German, Megan Buecher, Tyler Kasperbauer, Heather Taylor

For more information see our Bonobo Hope post.


  1. It seems that this situation gets worse with each report. Would the Board of the GAT take any action against Savage-Rumbaugh? If not are there no other authorities that could intervene for the benefit of the bonobos?

  2. I agree with this. Something needs to be done to help these apes. It is immensely disturbing to me that no action is being taken - this needs to happen and it needs to happen now.

  3. The global population of bonobos is carefully managed by 2 organizations: the SSP (Species Survival Plan) and the EEP which is the European counter part. The bonobos at GATI have been removed as SSP apes and the organization lost AZA accreditation. This was done voluntarily by GATI when they refused to cooperate with breeding rec's and participate in the global management of this species. While bonobos are carefully managed internationally, the apes at GATI are not a part of this survival plan. There are places for these bonobos to go, good places where the bonobos are cherished and treated with respect and allowed to be bonobos. Facilities that do REAL science, cognition work that is published in respected journals, where the animal is not wearing a collar and leash, where they will add to the gene pool, and there is no "bi cultural rearing". No ape mother voluntarily gives away her baby to hang out with humans. Ask any former LRC worker just exactly how Sue gets those babies away from their is not pretty folks. Trickery and bribery are used. Teco is inbred. Kanzi should have been vas clipped many years ago as per SSP rec's. His genetics are over represented globally. If he is breeding that is a huge mistake, if Teco is inbred that is another huge mistake. He is not autistic, but instead shows neurotic behavior often seen in nursery reared ape infants. Action needs to be taken by the governing board of directors to contact the SSP for immediate help in relocating at least some of these bonobos into family units at accredited zoos who house other bonobos with great success. Sue is mentally ill and I too fear she will harm the bonobos. This attitude that one can privately own some of the rarest animals on the planet, hold some of the worlds most genetically valuable bonobos, and most of all treat them like pets is just insane. Just look at the pictures of Kanzi, he is a good 50 pounds over weight and wears a collar. Pathetic huh? Such a twisted mess. The board of GATI needs to pull the plug before something drastic occurs. This mess is only going to get worse and there is no good solution as long as Sue is still in the picture.

  4. GAT Board, please do the right thing by these animals. Sounds like their lives are in your hands

  5. Shame on you GAT board! You know what is right, you know the history, you know the risks, you know Sue is mentally ill. You have been informed of what an SSP is, how valuable these animals are to the global population and yet you ignore it all. You have selfishly protected the wishes of a very disturbed individual who has not produced any valuable research in decades. Shame on you for allowing bi cultural rearing of Teco. Such a waste and so terribly sad. What on earth are you thinking?? The world is watching you, the world knows who you are and waits for you to do the right thing. Abuse comes in many forms my friends. Terribly fat bonobos wearing collars and leashes, infants taken from their mothers, lack of care, inadequate veterinary care and diets, and one injured caregiver after another reported.Add bonobos talking and running down the hallways biting and you have a nut house on your hands. All for what? Will any major science grants ever come to GAT? no.
    They never will. Why? Sue has burned every bridge she ever had. How can any of you be involved in this mess? Your professional reputations are also at stake. Do the right thing. Get expert advice right away. Involve veterinary care by well respected professionals, ask for help, the GAT bonobos are physically not healthy. Who knows about the mental state of the animals.

  6. I'm surprised, after reading about Nim, in "Nim Chimpsky, The Chimp Who Would Be Human", that anyone associated with his care would be allowed a research project of their own. Those on the board would do well to read this book, and consider if they want their names associated with GAT, or whatever they call themselves these days.