Sunday, November 25, 2012

Spanish urban planner to lead development of bonobo artist colony at Iowa’s Great Ape Trust

The pronouncements of the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary (aka Great Ape Trust, aka Bonobo Hope, dba, tweeting as Art4BonoboHope) are fascinating.

Savage-Rumbaugh's artist brother, Russ RuBert, took this
photo of the scientist and the baby bonobo she is trying to
rear "bi-culturally." 
Earlier this week, in the 7th paragraph of their press release announcing the unsurprising results of their self-serving “investigation” of Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, the organization announced they now have a new board president, replacing the former short-timer board president Ken Schweller.

“Notable primatologist, Dr. Carmen Maté, was voted in as Board Chairperson. Among other rolls [sic], Dr. Maté has served as the research director at the Barcelona Zoo for eight years and was also executive director of the Barcelona Zoo from 2004-2008.” This smooth presentation of Mate’s background makes it sound like she worked at the zoo for 12 years, doesn’t it? Doing all sorts of cool primatology things, right?

Actually, Mate’s LinkedIn page does not mention that she is a primatologist, but I did find her name mentioned in a “Laboratory Primate Newsletter” in 1994. Since 2009, she has worked as a “Cap de projectes” (project management head) at the Urban Ecology Agency of Barcelona. Prior to that, she lists three positions, held simultaneously, from 2004 to 2008. She lists her positions as executive director at Barcelona Zoo, and research director at the same time, but starting a bit earlier (from 2000 to 2008). Also at the same time, she was an assistant professor at Pompeu Fabra University (from 1999 to 2009). Her write-up at the Urban Ecology Agency says she is on the “Scientific Committee for the Jane Goodall Institute” – but I could not find her name mentioned anywhere on the JGI website. Nor could I find any reference to a scientific committee. So perhaps she no longer serves in that capacity.

This is just like the ever-changing Great Ape Trust Bonobo Hope Iowa Primate Research Sanctuary. They always leave us guessing about the facts behind the ambiguity… like unstated facts revealed in Perry Beeman’s latest article, at the Des Moines Register:

“The sanctuary has applied for an $850,000 grant from the [Prairie Meadows] racetrack and casino. The documents detail Savage-Rumbaugh’s plans to establish a sustainable village centered on an art program involving humans and bonobos at the site, and an artists colony. The application notes the program would be run by a ‘nationally known artist,’ Russ Rubert of Springfield, Mo. The application doesn’t disclose that Rubert is Savage-Rumbaugh’s brother.”

As always, the news behind the pronouncements at Great Ape Trust Bonobo Hope Iowa Primate Research Sanctuary is intriguing, even if it doesn’t inspire any confidence in their primate care capabilities. And we can always look forward to the next name change. Since a visitor center (built with a hoped-for massive cash influx donated in memory of Panbanisha’s tragic death) and an artist colony don’t comport to sanctuary standards, and there is no research being conducted, perhaps their next fundraising scheme will be to hold a contest to find an appropriate name for the program.

Great Ape Trust Bonobo Hope Iowa Primate Research Sanctuary Exhibition Hall and …??


  1. They did not receive the Prairie Meadows grant. This is very good news.