Friday, August 24, 2012

Bonobo Hope needs vision, not more gimmicks, to provide for the care of their bonobos

I really hoped that Great Ape Trust / Bonobo Hope / Iowa Primate Research Sanctuary (non-sanctuary non-research) Initiative would reorganize and get on their feet, and plan for their bonobos’ future. But every new publicity stunt, shamelessly paraded as “science,” indicates that they continue to flounder without a hint of the vision they desperately need. They can’t be serious.
Kanzi is the star of Bonobo Hope
After hearing of deep concern from former caregivers, consultants, supporters and volunteers for the welfare of Kanzi, Teco, and the other bonobos, I have posted several times about the nonsense emanating from Iowa since the beginning of the year. Several weeks ago I sent a letter to the Great Ape Trust (as I posted as an update to Follow the Money), requesting copies of their last three years of tax returns. Under tax law, they are required to supply those copies. A cover letter, from their lawyer on July 13, asked me to "say nice things about them," as the organization “is now totally dependent upon public support since the founder of the sanctuary is no longer able to finance its program.” I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. I really did.
In April, before I got the letter from the lawyer, I had written about Bonobo Hope’s loony robo-bonobo gimmick, trying to raise money for a rolling app that would supposedly let the bonobos better communicate with humans. In July, I wrote a tiny note when Sue Savage-Rumbaugh and her colleague went on NPR and actually declared that the bonobo Kanzi can talk. Yes, speak. In English. In a raspy whisper. (If we had any doubts about the program’s Doctor Doolittle aspect, those doubts are removed with this Radiolab program on NPR. Listen to the last segment.) After I got the lawyer’s request, I restrained myself earlier this month when I read Sue Savage-Rumbaugh’s new plan for Bonobo Hope: “Our goal is to create a sanctuary for artists—bonobo and human artists—to create interspecies art, music, and object/habitat construction through interspecies communication.” Um, what? But now, TA DA!, we have “research findings” that Kanzi can use a tool. For pete’s sake, primate researchers found this out about chimps and orangutans and gorillas decades ago. It has just now occurred to the robo-bonobo makers at Bonobo Hope????
So I give up. These people continue to flail around, trying one public relations gimmick after another. If they have a reasonable 5-year plan for gaining public support and ensuring care for their apes, they are not sharing it with the public. So far, I see no (bonobo) hope for a reasonable solution to their funding problems.
One problem is that the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary and Bonobo Hope Initiative, Inc., formerly doing business as Great Ape Trust of Iowa, has no history of responsible financial administration, as their tax returns show.

The steep slide in revenue is not a surprise. Great Ape Trust announced that their main contributor was backing out. Rob Shumaker (their director of development) left, taking four of the orangutans with him. More important, the comparison of revenue and expenses shows a constant problem of spending more than they took in.
With revenues consistently less than expenses, one would expect some belt tightening. It looks like they were able to save money when several of the highest compensated employees departed.
Still, I’m not sure how many nonprofit ape facilities have multiple employees earning 6-figure salaries, especially for part-time work. But at least Savage-Rumbaugh took a pay cut in 2011. I don’t know what she was doing as a research scientist, but we do know the board kept her on as their star fundraiser, as explained in this letter from the board chairman to the staff.
How much did the Great Ape Trust depend on founder Ted Townsend for their existence?
No wonder Great Ape Trust / Bonobo Hope doesn’t know how to raise money. They have no financial supporters. The copy of their 2010 tax return included Schedule A, Identification of Excess Contributions. There is one entry. “Ted Townsend, total contributions $15,068,548; excess contributions $14,742,777.” In other words, Townsend gave more than $15 million over the five years from 2006 through 2010.
I know that a lot of people want to know where the money went. I’ll get to that in another blog post but, in the meantime, anyone can ask for a copy of the last three years of tax returns. Since Great Ape Trust chose not to file their returns with Charity Navigator or Guide Star, they must send copies, within 30 days, to anyone who requests them. The address is:
Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary
4200 SE 44th Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50320-2085
***
To follow the latest developments, go to our Bonobo Hope post.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

We need more truth-telling about apes in captivity

Last night, ABC's 20/20 aired a short segment on the recent spate of chimpanzee attacks. I really liked that they put the attacks in their proper context. And they showed the despicable CareerBuilder TV ads that give the American public the mistaken impression that chimpanzees are cute little guys who just want to play with you. This is what TV does best: when the networks want to, they can tell the facts in a way that everyone can appreciate.


I also really like Eugene Cussons' bravery in speaking out and telling the truth about this summer's attack in South Africa. He helped people see the true state of the chimpanzees he has helped to rescue. Perhaps not surprisingly, some people don't like that he is talking to the media. He is deviating from a natural tendency of resource-starved animal organizations to play on people's heartstrings. In a very understandable bid for donations from animal lovers, some sanctuaries and pseudo-research groups go a little too far in portraying their captive apes as lovely and docile animals. They rarely show the cages or the protection measures set up to ensure everyone's safety.

Ape advocates, me included, assail the primate research laboratories for secrecy. We denigrate the research industry for their lack of transparency. We complain vociferously when transfers and shipments of research apes are made under the cover of darkness. We mourn the lack of information about the deaths. 
Until recently, it never occurred to me that some organizations would also pull a cover over their operations. When people sent me messages about conditions in the ape facilities, and asked for anonymity, I thought they were being overly paranoid. But I have found that they have valid reasons for wanting their identities shielded.

I was dismayed to learn that several (many?) chimpanzee, gorilla, and bonobo facilities ban their employees, contractors, and visiting researchers from speaking publicly about their operations. Does someone need to report a medical issue? Is an employee (or former employee) concerned with the care protocols? If they tell anyone, including inspectors, they will be sued. If a researchers wants to publish scientific findings that conflict with (or totally refute) anything the primary researcher wants said? Can’t do it. If the researcher tries, they will ruin a young career, while taking the researcher to court.
Ah, I can sense the skepticism… You think I have no proof?
Take a look at this article by Associated Press reporter Steve Dubois, Court: Intern can’t sue sanctuary. An intern who lost her thumb when a chimpanzee bit it off was suing Chimps Inc. According to the article:
The appeals court opinion includes information about the Chimps Inc. operation. It states officials have policies designed to shield the sanctuary from scrutiny. For example, the manual provided to interns includes a nondisclosure agreement that prohibits interns from discussing what they have seen or heard regarding the inner workings of the sanctuary.
The sanctuary's training manual states that 9-1-1 is to be called only in a life-threatening situation, and only Day and two other officials are authorized to make the call. The court opinion says when another intern phoned 9-1-1 after Howard was attacked, Day said: “'Who called 9-1-1? It's just your thumb.'”
Day acknowledged the restriction on calling 9-1-1 is intended to avoid “unnecessary scrutiny over safety concerns,” the court document states.
It turns out that this isn’t an isolated situation. See it for yourself. Below is the non-disclosure agreement that employees and visiting researchers have to sign if they want to work at Penny Patterson’s Gorilla Foundation.

These type of agreements, perhaps necessary to protect against baseless lawsuits, can have some very serious ramifications. A caregiver recently came to me with concerns about the health of a great ape they worked with. That caregiver was prohibited by an agreement, like the one below, from going directly to government officials with information about the lack of medical care for the ape. I took the information to a major animal welfare organization, who said they could do nothing. They gave me the email address of an APHIS official and suggested I contact him. I did. And heard nothing. Maybe APHIS is responding, and maybe they aren't. It's evidently a secret.
COPYRIGHT AND NON-DISCLOSURE AGREEMENT
THIS COPYRIGHTAND NON-DlSCLOSURE AGREEMENT {"Agreement'') is made as of [date], by and between the Gorilla Foundation, a foundation organized under the laws of the State of California, with offices at 1733 Woodside Road, Suite 330, Redwood City, California 94061 (the "FOUNDATION"), and [name], an individual residing in the State of [state] ("UNDERSIGNED") (the "FOUNDATION" and the "UNDERSIGNED" collectively referred to at times as the "Parties").
WHEREAS, FOUNDATION has engaged and/or wishes to engage UNDERSIGNED to create and/or assist in the creation of the WORKS described below (the WORKS), all rights in which, including, without limitation, trade secret, copyright, trademark, trade dress, patent and industrial design, are to be owned by FOUNDATION;
WHEREAS, FOUNDATION anticipates that UNDERSIGNED will be provided or otherwise exposed to confidential and proprietary information concerning the FOUNDATION during UNDERSIGNED'S engagement with the FOUNDATION, and the FOUNDATION desires to provide such information on the condition that it is protected from unauthorized use and disclosure as provided in this Agreement.
WHEREAS, UNDERSIGNED has undertaken and/or wishes to undertake such engagement under those conditions and under the terms set forth herein;
NOW THEREFORE, in consideration of FOUNDATION'S engagement of UNDERSIGNED and/or continued engagement, and other good and valuable consideration receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, the Parties agree as follows:
1. The WORKS created and/or to be created (in whole or in part, whether independently or through collaboration, consultation, etc.) by UNDERSIGNED are (or may be) as follows:
Check All Appropriate Box(es):
( ) Journal, magazine, newspaper or other articles (in any form or media);
( ) Book or article reviews, summaries, desk references, and compilations (in any form or media);
( ) Website content, layout, and/or design; and/or computer code and software; media);
( ) Curriculum, study aides and guides (in any form or media);
 ( ) Ad copy and content and all other promotional materials (in any form or media);
( ) Data systems, assessment tools, questionnaires, and guides (in any form or media);
( ) Directories, membership lists, databases, and/or other informational summaries;
( ) Photographs, film, images, musical composition or media or content of any kind which bears the name of the FOUNDATION, or is otherwise intended to be published in any form, or used, by the FOUNDATION;
( ) Art work, graphics, drawings, sketches, photographs, logos, trademarks, trade dress and/or layout designs (in any form or media);
( ) Other: ___________________________________________________
The WORKS shall also include all modifications, adaptations, inventions, improvements, derivative and subsequent WORKS derived from or based upon the original WORKS, as well as other works related thereto. UNDERSIGNED agrees to make any changes or modifications to the WORKS as reasonably required by FOUNDATION, to make the WORKS appropriate for the intended purpose.
2. UNDERSIGNED warrants and represents that the WORKS are and shall be original with the UNDERSIGNED and have not and shall not be copied, in whole or in part, from any other source, except as otherwise authorized in writing by the FOUNDATION.
3. Copyright in the WORKS shall be owned solely, completely and exclusively by FOUNDATION, free and clear from all claims of any nature relating to UNDERSIGNED'S contributions and other efforts, and FOUNDATION shall have the right to register its claim of copyright in the WORKS in the name of FOUNDATION as author and proprietor thereof throughout the world. The Parties intend that FOUNDATION shall have full ownership of the WORKS and and of the intellectual property rights therein and the registrations and letters patent therefor, and that UNDERSIGNED shall have no rights of ownership thereof.
5. CONFIDENTIALITY and NON-DISCLOSURE. UNDERSIGNED acknowledges and agrees that the subject matter of the WORKS and FOUNDATION'S plans for producing and/or utilizing the WORKS are confidential and proprietary to FOUNDATION.
UNDERSIGNED also acknowledges and agrees that during UNDERSIGNED'S engagement with the FOUNDATION, UNDERSIGNED may be provided and/or may come into contact with, or otherwise be exposed to, confidential information, which shall include all information and material that concerns the business or affairs of the FOUNDATION, including the WORKS, and any and all information relating to the business or practices of the FOUNDATION, its products, services, finances, marketing plans, medical information, research, methods of operation, legal affairs, employment matters, prospective and existing contracts, corporate or partnership documents, and other business/practice arrangements or business/practice plans and strategies (hereinafter the "CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION"). UNDERSIGNED agrees:
(a) Not to copy, disseminate or otherwise disclose the CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION, the WORKS, the subject matter of the WORKS, or the strategies associated or behind the creation or use of the WORKS with any person unless such discussion are part of UNDERSIGNED'S approved day-to-day duties or UNDERSIGNED is authorized in writing by the FOUNDATION to do so;
(b) To turn over to FOUNDATION at the earliest possible time, and from time to time, any and all materials created for and necessary to the creation, production or reproduction of the WORKS, and all copies and reproductions of the WORKS, including any and all machine readable and electronic copies, and all of FOUNDATION'S property that is in UNDERSIGNED'S possession or under his/her care, custody and control;
(c) Not to use, or cause or permit another to use, any information, including the CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION, conveyed by FOUNDATION for any purpose other than as part of UNDERSIGNED'S engagement with FOUNDATION as set forth herein; and
(d) in order to preserve and protect Koko’s, Ndume's or any other primate's safety, as well as the tranquility of their habitat and other reasons, not to disclose the primate's location or the FOUNDATION'S non-public business address to any third-party who does not reasonably need to have access to such information.
6. UNDERSIGNED further agrees to execute any other and further documentation that may be necessary to fully effectuate the terms of this Agreement, including, without limitation, assignments of copyright.
7. If any provision of this Agreement shall for any reason be held to be invalid, illegal or unenforceable in any respect, the same shall not affect any other term or provision in this Agreement, but this Agreement shall be construed as if such invalid or illegal or unenforceable provision had never been contained herein.
8. FOUNDATION shall have all rights and remedies which are available to it that arise out of any violation of any of the terms hereof, including, without limitation, the equitable remedy of specific performance.
9. This Agreement is the entire Agreement between the Parties with respect to the subject matter contained herein, and this Agreement specifically supersedes and renders other documents void and of no effect. No modification of this Agreement may be made unless it is in writing and executed by both Parties. No waiver of any of the provisions of this Agreement shall constitute or be deemed a waiver of any other provision, nor shall any waiver constitute a continuing waiver.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the Parties have duly executed this Agreement intending to be bound on the date first above written.
GORILLA FOUNDATION [By, Name, Title]
UNDERSIGNED [By, Name, If Undersigned is a company, add signatory’s title, Title]
(end of agreement)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

USDA issues scathing inspection report on owners of the Las Vegas chimpanzees

CJ, the Las Vegas chimpanzee owned by Timmi DeRosa, lost her companion chimpanzee, Buddy, to gunfire after both of them escaped from their cages in a residential area on July 12. CJ will be transferred to Chimps Inc, a sanctuary in Oregon. But before Terri decided to turn the chimp over to the sanctuary, USDA inspectors visited the Vegas residential facility where CJ has lived for over ten years. The result was this scathing Inspection Report, which I am providing in its entirety.










Friday, August 10, 2012

Does Michael Jackson's chimp Bubbles miss Neverland?

Bubbles is famous as Michael Jackson’s pet chimpanzee. He was a member of Michael’s weird household, appearing with the singer and even thrilling Japanese audiences while on a promotional tour of that country. Today, he could be an unofficial but acclaimed ambassador for former pets, a reminder of the difficulties of private ownership of chimpanzees.
It’s easy for most people to own a chimpanzee, and even to keep that chimp in their home. Currently, there are 61 privately-owned chimpanzees who are either bred for public ownership or currently living in private residences, according to ChimpCare. Legislation in Congress that would prohibit the use of chimps as pets has been going nowhere, although some elected officials in some states and counties are trying to enact or strengthen local regulations. Predictably, owners of exotic animals are whining that government is overreaching, trying to restrict their “rights” to do anything they want with animals. But Bubbles' life shows why exotic pet owners are wrong.
Michael could buy just about anything he wanted, at least until his world turned upside down and people started suing him. He could do just about anything he wanted. And yet, with all that money and all that power, he decided to give up the chimpanzee who evidently meant a lot to him. Reportedly, Michael felt so connected to Bubbles that he believed the chimp would warn him about who was after his money. According to News24, “A former housekeeper told The Sun newspaper: ‘Bubbles often would be a gauge for Michael to decide who should stay and go.’”
The chimpanzee who was loved by millions was born in 1983 at a biomedical research facility in Texas that breeds primates for medical testing. By the time he was five years old, he was on tour with Jackson in Japan. Soon after, Bubbles disappeared from Michael’s world.
Even the King of Pop couldn’t manage living with Bubbles as the chimp grew up. Chimps are only manageable as pets until they are 7 or 8 years old. Even if you have strong chains and stronger cages, like Michael could have set up with a snap of his finger, you cannot ensure the safety of people around them. Emotionally healthy chimpanzees are proud, and generally independent-minded. They are much like us, after all. But much stronger. And they don't shy away from showing their displeasure when their will is thwarted.

(Jane Goodall says the Bubbles was beaten when he was with Michael.)
Bubbles spent a couple of years living at a California training facility run by Bob Dunn, one of Hollywood’s most famous ape trainers. When Dunn shut down his business, Bubbles found a new and permanent home with the Center for Great Apes, in Wauchula, Florida. He has lived there since 2005 -- without a provision in MJ's will, and with no financial support from the family. (I know the Center for Great Apes, and I hope you can make a small donation to help with care for Bubbles and the other former show biz chimps and orangutans.)
Did Michael cold-heartedly “abandon” Bubbles? I am glad that he “gave him up” so the chimp could have a better life. I would argue that when Michael got Bubbles out of a residential situation, (which Neverland was, after all, even if it was a BIG residence) he was finally acting responsibly. Since chimpanzees become increasingly difficult to manage as they approach adulthood, owners must, of necessity, keep their chimp socially isolated because managing an entire family of chimpanzees is a task only for a zoo or a sanctuary with trained caregivers and suitable living conditions. The years of social isolation experienced by pet chimpanzees can result in an emotionally warped individual, who often ends up in bad physical shape as well.
Bubbles is now 30 years old, with a life expectancy of 40 to 45 years, or even longer. His life in a sanctuary is as rich as can be expected for a great ape in captivity. It is better, by far, than the lives of chimps who are restrained by chains and kept isolated in unsuitable homes across America.
I would never suggest that Michael Jackson’s lifestyle is an example for people to follow. But I wish young people who dream of following Jackson’s example of chimpanzee ownership would look, instead, to the lesson Michael learned. (One Direction's Louis Tomlinson, I'm talking to you.) Chimpanzees, even moonwalking ones, are not pets. If you truly love chimpanzees, respect them enough to give them a life where they can love and play and grow old with their own species. They won’t miss life on tour, or life in the garage, or even a life of luxury with famous people in Neverland. Sure, chimpanzees grow attached to their human companions, and will miss those people a lot, especially when they are first separated. But, truly, once they discover their true selves, they prefer life as a chimp. Just ask Bubbles.

The Jackson family contributes NOTHING to pay for the care of this wonderful chimpanzee. If you care about Bubbles and want to honor Michael Jackson, I urge you to make a donation, even if it is a very small one, to Center for Great Apes for their lifetime care of this wonderful chimp. Help support Bubbles

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Honoring requests for secrecy about apes... or not

When should a person keep information secret, and when does the greater good demand a public airing? It used to be a very personal decision, but the explosion of the internet and the ease of posting Facebook comments, or blogs like this, for the world to read ‒ makes the decision tougher. At least it does for me.
I don't know, maybe my family experience drives my aversion to secrets now. Keeping secrets to protect “the family reputation” is usually a tragedy in the making. As a young teen back in the 1960s, I had to live the lie that dad died of a heart attack. Okay, so we didn’t want the world to know that he killed himself, but that decision would have repercussions for decades because family members never got the counseling that would help them sort out the deeply personal issues that ALWAYS come from suicide. I still deal with those issues. So screw the family desire to hide the dark truth. The dead are dead and the lives of the living are at risk.

Lives are at risk. In deciding whether to keep a secret, that’s what it comes down to, doesn’t it?
When it comes to this blog, I want to be sensitive to the wishes of the humans whose lives are intertwined with apes, but what if that keeps the chimpanzee, bonobo, or gorilla in a situation that is harming that animal?
The world of exotic animal ownership is a world of secrets. (If you don’t believe me, get a copy of Alan Green’s book, Animal Underworld: Inside America's Black Market for Rare and Exotic Species for a real awakening.) Since I started writing this blog 16 months ago, I’ve learned about the ape underworld, and I’ve come across more than a few secrets. I am constantly at war with myself, trying to figure out what to tell, what to keep secret, who will be hurt, and who will be helped.
These are some of the decisions I’ve made…
Bubbles
Friday night, I decided to take down my post with the highest readership. Last year's post, “Michael Jackson’s pet chimpanzee, with no support from the family, depends on public donations for food and medical care,” told an important lesson. Michael, with all of his riches, had to give up Bubbles because managing an adolescent chimpanzee as a “pet” is just too damn hard. Chimps grow up, they grow strong and independent, and even a person with Michael's resources can't maintain the fantasy of a chimpanzee companion. Bubbles ended up at a good sanctuary, but who pays for the care of chimpanzees, even famous ones, once they are at a sanctuary? It can be a delicate dance, and my public airing of private financial dealings may be tripping up the dancers. So, because the greatest interest has to be for the lifetime care of this wonderful chimp, I took the post down and replaced it with a new post, Does Michael Jackson's chimp Bubbles miss Neverland?
Great Ape Trust / Bonobo Hope
Regular readers of this blog know of my utter disdain for the Great Ape Trust / Bonobo Hope. This former research facility now deems to call itself a sanctuary, but it is flailing to figure out the best way to care for the bonobos it has left. People have stopped covering up the mess, and started revealing the secrets ‒ although just about everyone wants anonymity lest a certain person decides to lash out at them. A former long-time employee wrote an email that ended up in a lot of email boxes. “Dr. Savage-Rumbaugh's disconnection with reality never ceases to amaze me,” this professional wrote. “For 10 years I've helped create Great Ape Trust and assist Dr. Sue. I've seen her manipulation and deceitfulness for too many years… Her destructive behavior helped destroy this organization and I can no longer be part of Great Ape Trust as long as she is associated with it.”
I recently asked for, and received, copies of the last three years of the Great Ape Trust tax returns. (Under U.S. tax law, GAT was required to give me copies within 30 days of my written request.) A cover letter from a lawyer came with the thick package. “We would hope that, if you are truly concerned about the bonobo colony, you would say nice things about them, because it is now totally dependent upon public support since the founder of the sanctuary is no longer able to finance its program,” the lawyer wrote. “Negative statements, particularly those that are not relevant today do a great disservice to the welfare of the bonobos.” I can see that, to a point. And this is my point: I will refrain, for a while, from writing about the contents of those tax returns, in hopes that Bonobo Hope's board of directors will listen to ape experts and give those bonobos a chance to live their lives as apes. When facility directors go on public radio to declare that the bonobo Kanzi actually speaks in a raspy human voice, surely board members can recognize that it’s time to look for new leadership, or for a new home for those bonobos.
Others
There are so many secrets out there. Until I started writing this blog, I never realized there was so much effort being expended, out of the public spotlight, trying to convince chimpanzee owners to do the right thing, to get the apes out of entertainment, out of decrepit roadside “wildlife parks,” out of dangerous pet situations, out of breeding facilities, out of research, etc., and into sanctuaries or accredited zoos, where they can live as good a life as captivity will allow.
“Dawn, please don’t write about this. Let us try to work things out,” is a request I get a lot from people involved with apes. Most of the time, I will honor the request, as long as I know that honest people are truly trying to do what is best for the people involved ‒ and for the helpless animals who have no say in the matter. Fortunately, there are some wonderful people working quietly but intently to help those apes, and I have no problem honoring their requests for secrecy. There are also many exploiters out there, and if I think there’s a chance they will change their ways, I will consider their requests for secrecy, at least for a while. But the unabashed exploiters who disregard the needs of their apes, and put their welfare at risk? They can kiss my ass.
Update, Aug 11, 2012
Speaking of troubling secrets... I understand the desire to want to hide bad news, but this article by Associated Press' Steve Dubois, about the sanctuary Chimps, Inc., has some troubling aspects. Court: Intern can't sue chimp sanctuary.