Great Ape Trust


In February 2013, the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary stepped over the line in exposing baby Teco to human germs. Savage-Rumbaugh joins chimp exploiters Pam Rosaire and Mike Dunne as ape entertainment providers.
The failure of the Great Ape Trust / Bonobo Hope / Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary is best illustrated by "then" and "now" photos of the morbidly obese Kanzi.

Bonobo fans may be confused about this organization. At various points in their fundraising stunts, this organization has been known as the Great Ape Trust. It also does business as Bonobo Hope. Lately, it calls itself the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary -- which is at least 50 percent correct since it is in Iowa and and it does have primates. Learning and sanctuary? Not so much. They also started up a Panbanisha.org, to leverage the tragic death of one of their bonobos into yet another fundraising scheme.

The latest crisis in the ongoing 30+ year saga with the research bonobos started out of the public eye, in mid-December, 2011. Because of a myriad of concerns and objections about Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, employees resigned from Great Ape Trust, en masse. Before it was all over, eight caregivers, one accountant, three public safety officers, one public relations director, and two directors ‒ plus all interns ‒ walked out.

Savage-Rumbaugh was appointed executive director. The reason, according to board chair Ken Schweller, was because she was the star fundraiser. And boy, did they need funds! They were on the brink of collapse. Broke.

While the board and Savage-Rumbaugh caromed from one preposterous publicity ploy to the next, rumors started surfacing about what was really happening at the Great Ape Trust. Ex-employees started to contact me, explaining how things really were. I blogged about the stuff I learned, and encouraged anyone who contacted me to “come out.” But they had careers in front of them and had seen Savage-Rumbaugh and her acolytes retaliate against people who disagreed with her. (I can attest to that!) They needed time to talk things out.

On September 9, 2012, the “Bonobo 12” wrote to the Great Ape Trust Board of Directors with their concerns. On September 10, after getting the brushoff from the board, they went public.

Several ape professionals attempted to reach out to board members and Savage-Rumbaugh, to help them find a way out of the morass, apparently with little success. Sometime after September 26, two prestigious board members -- Ed Wasserman and Paul Lasley -- reportedly resigned from the board.

The Great Ape Trust board of directors met on October 4.

People who want to see the bonobos in a safe and nurturing environment are trying to stay on top of developments at Bonobo Hope (aka all the other names). I will try to keep this post updated with the latest news. If you know of additional information on the Web, please let me know at chimptrainersdaughter@gmail.com, or comment below. (PS, please keep comments on-topic.)

More than a month after the board of directors were to decide on the fate of the bonobos, the board members have evidently failed to act. While they twiddled their fingers, the bonobos have started to die -- exactly what the Bonobo 12 feared and warned the board about. Panbanisha died in the early morning of November 7, according to "suspended" director Savage-Rumbaugh.

Update Nov 17, 2012: The board's so-called investigation rejected all concerns of the Bonobo 12. If one had a cynical view of it, one might be tempted to imagine that they collected the statements from all the former caregivers as a way to find out the evidence against Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, and never had any intention of acting.

Update Feb 16, 2013: In their latest attempt at financial solvency, they changed their focus to public exhibition, after receiving word from USDA inspector Heather Cole that she approved it on November 13. After their grant application to an Iowa racetrack and casino was rejected (Savage-Rumbaugh wants to turn the joint into an artist colony), the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary opened their doors to the public. Parading baby Teco into the group of children and adults, Savage-Rumbaugh officially joined the long and infamous line of ape entertainment providers. Former IPLS employee Daniel Musgrave saved these Facebook photos from the facility's event.

From the Bonobo 12 (former caregivers, researchers, and colleagues who are speaking up about conditions at the facility)

Information from Great Ape Trust / Bonobo Hope


Blog posts and articles by others


Great Ape Trust abuse allegations are detailed, by Perry Beeman, Des Moines Register, September 14, 2012

Iowa Bonobo Sanctuary Mired in Controversy, by Elizabeth Pennisi, Science Insider, September 18, 2012

Behind the Curtain, by Beth Dalbey, West Des Moines Patch, September 21, 2012
Troubled ape facility reinstates controversial researcher, by Kate Wong, Scientific American, November 21, 2012
Savage-Rumbaugh returns to ape sanctuary, by Perry Beeman, Des Moines Register, November 20, 2012 

Related blog posts on Chimp Trainer’s Daughter












It's the bonobos, stupid!, September 18, 2012

Give these bonobos a chance!, September 25, 2012
Key Out Now, October 5, 2012

22 comments:

  1. i can not identify my name but i was there in november to do contractor work for them. the new director julie has a young child and i saw her daughter playing outside of the cages very roughly with the baby bonobo more than once while the mother (julie) was there and did not stop it. i heard julie say they are best friends. this does not seem right for a real vet to let her own child do this with an endangered species. i also saw the baby bonodo allowed to be petted and kissed by other visitors from outside and no body was asked about their shots or whether they had colds or not. i was told by someone else working there that they saw the baby bonobo bite a woman visitor and they did not do anything to make sure the bonobo had not gotten blood or other germs but just let him keep running around with the director julie's child. i knew this is wrong and i am glad i have found your site to learn the truth. i hope you are able to rescue the bonobos.

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  2. Considering heart disease is a major concern for captive apes any obesity is not good for the life and longevity of apes.

    When I was at Karisoke Research Center in 1974 in Rwanda, the mountain gorillas were very habituated and often initiated physical contact. However that is no longer allowed due to disease transmission. Researchers keep a respectful distance and try to discourage contact.

    Caretakers of rescued orphan gorillas wear masks and gloves during physical contact with the young gorillas. It seems like this should be common practice.
    Sorry to see not much has changed regarding this place.

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  3. Kanzi's father, Bosondjo, died in 2005 at the Jacksonville Zoo as a result of heart disease. He was 34 but not overweight. Kanzi is 32 and, as the recent photos show, morbidly obese...again. In 2010, caretakers (no longer on staff) put Kanzi on a strict diet and he lost - in a healthy manner - a significant amount of weight. For him to return to this life threatening condition while a veterinarian serves as the executive director of Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary, is appalling.

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  4. Bosondjo received brilliant care from Jacksonville and thrived during his golden years. His heart disease was controlled with medication and diet. This is the same for several other of Bo's son's who have the same problem. USDA notices a skinny starving animal and promptly removes them from the hands of the owner. Yet they let morbid obesity go unnoticed. What a joke. This is abuse at it's finest.

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    1. I must reluctantly agree with your observation about USDA on this matter. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt, but that is impossible in this case. I had several conversations with USDA APHIS about the Great Ape Trust / Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary. This is the last message they sent me, on Nov 8 2012, after I renewed my request for a report from their Sept 2012 inspection: "There was no inspection report to speak of. A complaint had come in, so we followed our standard protocol and followed up on the complaint by looking into the matter. Our inspector visited the facility and conducted a very thorough evaluation, and found nothing that was out of compliance with the Animal Welfare Act regulations. The animals were each being properly cared for. This closes the matter for USDA."

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  5. Wow. Can you say "Herpes"?? A veterinarian is allowing her child to come in contact with infant Teco? Does she not know that the entire bonobo population carries both Herpes 1&2? Unreal.

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    1. And today we learned that, for a mere $3,000, you too can have some time for a one-on-one with a bonobo!

      From their website: "You may schedule either a half-day or a full-day one-on-one experience at the facility for yourself or for a small group of ten or fewer individuals. This life-changing and indelible opportunity will allow individuals to experience safe, one-on-one bonobo interaction with the IPLS bonobo family, as well as with Science Director, Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh... Snacks and meals are included. A half-day experience requires a minimum donation of $3,000, while a full-day experience requires a minimum donation of $5,000."

      I hope the human who goes one-on-one with a bonobo will write me and tell us all about it!

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    2. Here is the bio from the Executive Director and attending veterinarian of IPLS, from her veterinary practice's website. It should explain a lot about her ignorance of bonobos:

      " Julie Gilmore, D.V.M.
      Dr. Julie Gilmore joined the Avondale Veterinary Healthcare team in May of 2010. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine and enjoys both canine and feline internal medicine and surgery. She is a member of the American Animal Hospital Association, the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners. She enjoys spending her free time with her husband, Tim, and daughter, Sydney. She also adores her faithful, furry companions, a yellow lab named "Dakota", a German Shepherd named "Morgan", a Pixie Bob named "Aspen" and her cat, "Myia". She loves to travel, garden, cook, read, dabble with watercolors and pastels, hike and just about anything else that lets her spend time outdoors.

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    3. Dr. Gilmore is a patsy and a pawn of SSR. I have been in multiple meetings with them both. Julie delivers her scripted lines ("Sue has been cleared of all charges" "The former employees are wrong/crazy"), then turns the floor over to Sue, who raves on about how bonobos are homo, not pan, and how important inter-species inculturization is to understanding bonobos and humans alike. I wish I did not have to do business there. It is a terrible place.

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  6. I want to keep my fingers. No thanks.

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  7. Ted Townsend, who started this abomination, has a room in his home that is decorated with stools made from elephant feet. His business is what he calls "eco-tourism" and for many years he has tried to build a rain forest theme park in Iowa. Great Ape Trust was nothing but a way for him to have some bonobos to put in his eco-tourist facility, which has fortunately never opened. This organization was rotten from the start.

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    1. This is true: here is the website for Townsend's company... http://www.earthpark.net/about/staff.php

      It is worth noting that most of these folks are prominent Republican operatives in Iowa.... their vice president is a former gubernatorial candidate.

      Pillaging the environment and exploiting its creatures comes very naturally to folks like these.

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    2. I see that Ben Beck is an advisor to the Townsend company... Which brings up a question: Where the hell is Ben Beck in all this??? Why isn't he and Rob Shumaker speaking up? As early colleagues in the Great Ape Trust, do they condone this travesty?

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    3. Once again..the code of silence is followed regarding SSR.

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  8. In the past 3 months the "Bonobo Hope" or whatever they are calling themselves today took all the information about their individual bonobos off of their website. There use to be a page with stats about each bonobo, short stores, birthdates, etc. Now there are short blurbs about the "science" with each bonobo, but the individuals are not introduced anymore.

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  9. SSR is gone from Des Moines, finally . . . . http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20140130/NEWS/301300138/Iowa-Primate-Learning-Sanctuary-announces-new-lead-scientists

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    1. Definitely good news, increasing hopes that the bonobos will thrive under appropriate care. I've asked to talk to the scientists or director, as I'd like to learn what they envision for research. I promise to write about it as soon as I hear from anyone.

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  10. "I'm proud to be a chimp trainer's daughter.
    I remember well the zoo where I fetched water.
    they'd hang around in bars all day
    and remodel their cages with government pay,
    never done the work what they oughter.

    (refrain)
    hail to the chimps who were chosen by their mothers
    put on a monkey suit and all go salute each other!
    buy them some wine and a golden monkey mansion.
    hail big banana monkey, back in your cage!"

    lyrics by james mcashan, DOS
    candidate independent for the United States Senate

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  11. "I'm proud to be a chimp trainer's daughter.
    I remember well the zoo where I fetched water.
    they'd hang around in bars all day
    and remodel their cages with government pay,
    never done the work what they oughter.

    (refrain)
    hail to the chimps who were chosen by their mothers
    put on a monkey suit and all go salute each other!
    buy them some wine and a golden monkey mansion.
    hail big banana monkey, back in your cage!"

    lyrics by james mcashan, DOS
    candidate independent for the United States Senate

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  12. I watched the old documentaries where SSR took care of Kanzi. They had a very close relationship. What was it exactly that SSR did wrong?The lack of money forced SSR to do some less than ideal fundraising in order to protect Kanzi and other apes. But is that bad? Btw, how is Kanzi doing now?

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    1. Dear Sue (or friend of Sue), I suggest you read the many blogposts and comments from former caretakers if you truly want to know what exactly SSR did wrong. BTW, I hear the new management has gotten Kanzi's weight down and is fighting tooth and nail to keep SSR away from the bonobos -- but, beyond that, I haven't heard a word beyond the usual public relations spin.

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  13. How can someone contact the owners of the bonobos? I am in the process of receiving a grant to open a 39 acre refuge for bonobos. I can be texted at 318-419-2510. Thanks in advance for any help or advice.

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