Savethechimps

Promotional Brochure for Save The Chimps, Inc.

“Chimpanzees are our closest relatives, sharing all but 1.4% of our DNA. Like humans, they form life long relationships with their families, feel and communicate emotions, and have unique personalities”.


I was invited in a serendipitous moment to take a tour of Save The Chimps, Inc.,  a “chimp centric” chimpanzee rescue organization located on 12 seperate 3-5 acre  islands , sprawling grounds dotted with an elaborate chimp playground surrounded by moats of water.  I was told that chimps don’t swim.  The water acts as a natural barrier to prevent their escape.  It is located in an out of the way area of Florida in the middle of the state that is easy to miss and is restricted. I got lost several times on old country roads, some barely paved. The gate opened  automatically when I finally arrived almost an hour late to allow my car entry,  “open sesame” .

At the gate, a rush of memories and fantasies overwhelmed my imaginal space.   Government facilities.  Los Alamos. Top secret investigations and creepy experiments akin to torture. The aura of it all was there at that heavy metal gate. Feelings came back to me that I experienced on a tour of  Brookhaven National Lab on Long Island not so long ago where I saw in passing, abandoned wilted plants in an outdated lab and wondered, “What happened here?”. Images continued to flood my consciousness throughout the course of the tour. Navy dolphins, bombs strapped to their bodies. Chimps loaded into canon like contraptions in old movie footage, circus style and shot out of them at dangerous speeds.

I felt grief as my tour leader drove us from feeding station to feeding station. The feeding stations are the last and necessary remaining vestiges of an outdated zoo like  system inherited by the organization. Many of the chimps came from facilities where they had no prior experience of open space, light or adequate ventilation. In this one they are fed in the stations as part of their process of introduction to vast space and the freedom to be themselves.  They can come and go at will and roam the grounds to interact with each other and to get away from prying human eyes to discover their innate species characteristics. Jane Goodall is  a member of their Board. Today chimps from Coulston Lab formerly used in biomedical research live here. Thoughts of Plum Island danced in my head (groan).

Save The Chimps,  “…provides compassionate and comprehensive care within socially enriched environments to chimpanzees rescued from research laboratories, entertainment and the pet trade.” I asked the leader of our tour if they used hand signals with the chimps. The answer was a resounding “No”. It  is a sanctuary and not designed as an exhibition facility or for our pleasure.

The chimps do continue to interact with human keepers as a necessity, to be fed, to get necessary medical attention and to participate  in enrichment activities like painting on canvas.

Chimp #1

chimp#1a

An elaborate playground was built for them with swings and elevated cross beams where they can safely relax and dangle an arm, banana in hand.  Some rattle their cages as we approach them to observe them in their feeding stations to remind us of their wild nature, that 1%. Some have ended up like the most damaged psychiatric patients amongst us, unrelated and enraged with fragmented personalities and brain damage. They are  incapable of relationships and instead exhibit disturbed behaviors like headbanging and other obsessive compulsive defenses. King Kong,  isolated,  lived in an environment  surrounded by skulls,  skeletons of brothers and  sisters  propped up on sticks, used as sacrifices to gods. He took a hostage.

Save The Chimps, Inc.  promotional material advises us to “Imagine Your Life In A Box”. Visit their website at http://www.savethechimps.org. You can adopt a chimp to help with the enormous cost of keeping this facility up and running. Speak out for them. Share the love!

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