Friday, September 14, 2012

The Bonobo 12 pull back the curtain at the Great Ape Trust

I cannot believe all of this was happening under the noses of the Great Ape Trust (aka Bonobo Hope, aka Iowa Primate Research Foundation) Board of Directors. 
The Bonobo 12, the people who have been warning the Board of Directors of the Great Ape Trust / Bonobo Hope about the potential dangers of leaving the bonobos in the care of suspended director Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, tonight sent a detailed letter to ape welfare advocates across the country. The letter is specific in its allegations against Savage-Rumbaugh, and details how people have been warned, time and again, about the… what? I don’t even know what to call the insane lack of care. It’s beyond that. The record, as presented by the Bonobo 12, details flagrant acts that resulted in surgeries, emergency vet calls, danger, and fear.
I’ve posted the Bonobo 12’s full Sept 14 statement on Google Docs. Please take some time to read it carefully.
If you don’t have time to get to it now, bookmark it.

As part of their documentation, the Bonobo 12 included copies of documents in the PDF. Just to give you a small sample of the alleged conduct by Savage-Rumbaugh, let me highlight lowlight some of the malfeasance cited in a November 9, 2011, memo that former Great Ape Trust director William Fields wrote to Savage-Rumbaugh, informing her of the reasons why her research protocol for the bi-cultural rearing of bonobo infant Teco was not accepted. Some of his points:
“My office is most concerned with protocols that detail how Nyota and Maisha (who have suffered significant injuries that required surgical intervention) will be managed within the experimental and control groups that are created by you or staff as a function of your research with Baby Teco. My office is most concerned about the recent events dated 7/7/11 with Maisha that required surgery on 7/10/11 and the events that led to Nyota’s surgery dated 8/24/11.”
Concern is growing over the welfare
of bonobo baby Teco, shown in this
publicity shot with Savage-Rumbaugh
“My office is concerned with the incident of Teco’s vomiting and diarrhea dated 10/8/11. The staff report that you attributed this event to the consumption of non-organic baby food. The laboratory reports reveal that Teco consumed old food, rotten vegetable, candle-wax, adult vitamins, instant caffeinated coffee, energy supplement drinks, and artificial sweeteners contemporary with Teco’s vomiting and diarrhea dated 10/8/11.”
“Please describe how you will insure that Teco does not consume drugs intended for other apes... My office is particularly concerned about the consumption of antibiotics intended for adult apes. Employees expressed concern regarding this matter on 8/29/11.”
“Please address the issue of exposure to material safety in the laboratory as you proceed with human enculturation practices with baby Teco. Please describe how you will secure personal toiletry items to prevent Baby Teco from exposure to chemicals such as zinc pyrithione and antifungal and antibacterial agents. For example, Head and Shoulder Shampoo, Baby Teco was exposed on 7/31/11, which required medical attention.”
“My office is particularly concerned about the events of 11/1/11 in which... apes were left with access to the outdoors overnight (East Electric Play Yards.) You left campus 11/2/11 at 5:28 AM and did not return until 10:55 AM 11/3/11.”
“My office is particularly concerned about the instance that occurred on 7/8/11 in which the staff found ‘A light in Sue’s room got turned on under a blanket and it trapped the heat and cause the lamp to melt and the blanket to burn/smoke.’ Fortunately, the staff was able to catch the situation before it was out of hand.”
“My office is most concerned regarding a report in which a Simpson Student was asked to throw a bucket water on an ape in response to ape spitting...  My office is particularly concerned about the day involving a Simpson student, Stephanie Perkins, and Andrea Jackson on April 22, 2011 in which the student left the lab rather than throw water on Nyota.”
“If baby Teco is going to have contact with the dogs, (a) please explain how you will insure the dogs receive water and food during the period of time they are in your care and (b) if you intend to create ape and dog groups, please explain how you intend to protect the dogs and apes when aggression arises. My office is most concerned with the most recent instance that occurred on 10/25/11 where the dogs were left in a cage without water.”
This is just a sampling, but you get the drift.
William Fields resigned from the Great Ape Trust soon after he wrote that document. And despite all of this and more the Board of Directors made Sue Savage-Rumbaugh director, and gave her all the authority to run the place as she wished.
By the way, those dogs that were left in a cage without water? They must be okay because, according to the Bonobo 12, Savage-Rumbaugh “suggested to staff that the puppies on campus were beginning to speak English.” They probably picked it up from Kanzi, Sue’s talking ape.
But I shouldn’t make light of a horrible situation. You must read the September 14 statement to fully grasp the enormity of the problem that has not only continued to fester under this board of directors, but has grown ever more rampant directly under their oblivious noses.

We wouldn't have known any of it if 12 brave people hadn't pulled back the curtain. But we know, now, what is behind that curtain, don't we? Even Toto could tell us (surely he speaks English too...) that the wizard is always a fraud.

For more information, see our Bonobo Hope post.


  1. My God. Make it stop. Get those animals out of there and into safe hands. Do it now. Just make this insanity stop. This incompetent board better hope they have good insurance.

  2. thank god they did that. I was planning on releasing information myself very soon if actions weren't being appropriately taken. I was a volunteer there myself

    1. We are all thankful! If you have additional information, please send it to me at

  3. is anyone else troubled that a lawyer is aggressively commenting on this story in response to anyone who agrees with the whistleblowers?

  4. Sue's supporters are evidently coming to her defense, and the only way to do it (since they can't produce any facts to refute the charges) is to threaten lawsuits and scare people. It's classic. Do a Google search on her. She fundraises for Interspecies Internet (promoting the whole talking bonobo thing), and she recruits lawyers for corporations.
    If she is an actual practicing attorney, I haven't been able to discover it.

  5. Not only animal advocates would feel very bad for this case. I mean, why does she still have control if many can see what's happening to the apes? I've read the document partially (most of it were the highlighted incidents) and I felt sorry on how Teco was treated. The experiment alone is considerable as stressful for the animal, how much more if there are "mishaps" included on how Teco was taken care of? Hopefully there's an update for this post, wishing well for baby Teco.