Monday, September 10, 2012

"We believe... there is an immediate danger to the apes' health and lives"

On September 10, people concerned about the safety of the Great Ape Trust (aka Bonobo Hope, aka Iowa Primate Research Foundation) bonobos issued the following open letter, asking for the public’s help.  - Dawn
We, the former associates, employees, and friends of the bonobos at Bonobo Hope/Great Ape Trust, write to you today with grave concern. We fear for the immediate health and safety of the apes at Bonobo Hope/Great Ape Trust. In the past, staff and others outside of Bonobo Hope/Great Ape Trust have raised concerns about both ape care and institutional management to no avail. Most recently, this culminated in the resignation of all but a few of the employees in December of 2011. Now, we believe that the situation at the Trust has degraded to the point that there is an immediate danger to the apes' health and lives.
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. Additionally, it is our belief that the Board of the Trust has neglected to act in the bonobos’ best interests in choosing to support Savage-Rumbaugh. Despite the numerous and overwhelming protestations from ape-care staff, the Board has opted to keep Savage-Rumbaugh in power in an attempt to capitalize on her fame for financial reasons. This, despite the fact that care-takers have observed and reported injuries to apes, unsafe working conditions, and unauthorized ape pregnancies. We suspect that Savage-Rumbaugh’s current mental state exponentially increases the likelihood of these kinds of events happening again in the immediate future.
If you care about the bonobos, as we do, we urge you to contact the board to voice your concerns and demand answers. (They can be contacted at,,,,,,,,,,, 
We believe it is necessary to put another person in charge of the laboratory, effective immediately. This person will be responsible for planning the bonobos’ immediate future, including potentially moving to a new facility, with the bonobos’ well-being as the foremost priority.
Immediate action is necessary. We are terrified that something horrible could happen during the intervening days, on top of the apes not being properly cared for as a result of insufficient staffing. We have organized a team of qualified caretakers ready to step in and provide care for the bonobos during a transition period.
In the past, we have brought our concerns directly to the Board. We believe that to now be insufficient given the severity of the present situation. We turn to you, and ask for your support and for your voice, to give the bonobos the safe, happy life they deserve. They are the unwitting victims of human missteps and they need outside help now more than ever.
The bonobos deserve better.
Megan Buecher (Former Ape Caretaker - 4 months)
Jen Draiss (Former Ape Caretaker - 2 years)
Mike German (Former Head of Public Safety - 7 years)
Andrea Jackson (Former Ape Caretaker -2 years)
Tyler Kasperbauer (Former Research Assistant/ Ape Caretaker - 3 years)
Susannah Maisel (Former Ape Caretaker - 7 years)
Jackie Mobley (Former Ape Caretaker - 5 years)
Stephanie Musgrave (Former Ape Caretaker - 3 years)
Daniel Musgrave (Former Research Assistant/Ape Caretaker - 6.5 years)
Janni Pedersen (Former Phd Researcher - 5 years)
Tyler Romine (Former Lab Supervisor/ Ape Caretaker - 5 years)
Heather Taylor (Former Ape Caretaker - 5 years)

For more information see our Bonobo Hope post.


  1. Fantastic job. I hold all of you in the highest regard and please know that the ape/bonobo community applauds you.

  2. Someone needs to go after Perry Beeman from the Des Moines register for unethical reporting and failure to thoroughly investigate the situation. He should be fired and the Des Moines Register should be fined.

  3. Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh,
    Feel free to publicly apologize to your past "unqualified, disgruntled employees," who tirelessly worked for you for years while personally sacrificing everything for GAT. This is the second time that you have publicly and outrageously defamed your staff without warrant. Feel free to apologize to them ANYTIME. An immediate public apology is in order here.

    The Des Moines Register should not be fined for presenting facts to their readers.

  4. I guess the dirty dozen will only be happy when the bonobos are in a zoo. I would like to know why you all stayed so long if it was so terrible and so dangerous?

    1. I can't speak for the Bonobo 12, but my conversations with them over the past months convince me that they tried to work from the inside, to make things better -- or at least not so bad -- for the bonobos. And it is unfair to ascribe solutions to them that they haven't suggested.

      Your question is not really the relevant question, now, is it? We need to turn that question around to the critics of the Bonobo 12: What are YOU doing NOW? Are you demanding change, or are you happy with the situation, now that you've learned about what really goes on there?

      People need to pull their heads out of the sand, and demand that the Board of Directors pull in the best ape welfare experts to help plan for the future.