I am writing to you as one of the Board members for Save the Chimps.
Growing up I always wanted to work with animals, but my career took a different path. The world of tourism marketing and event production required a rigorous travel schedule to many areas of the world, and I dove straight in. It provided an insightful pathway along the way. As one of the original directors for TED Conferences, as Director of Events, I produced over 65 TED Conferences worldwide over 19 years. Still, I never lost touch with my early instincts and devoted time to learning as much as I could about animal behavior as I intended to circle back to do what I feel I was born to do. I am now devoting my days to animal welfare and conservation.
Jon Stryker, our chairman, and a fellow TEDster asked me to join the board in 2018. Shortly after, I visited the sanctuary for the first time and saw something wonderful and often unusual in the sanctuary world. Twelve islands, spread over 150 acres, devoted simply to the care of over 250 chimpanzees, who had been retired from bioresearch, entertainment, and the exotic pet trade industries. Here I witnessed our closest brethren playing and cajoling together, resting with, and grooming one another, in family groups that were harmonious and caring.
Here, I saw carefree chimpanzees moving at their own will with each other by their sides. The caregivers who showed me around were devoted to them and proudly shared their knowledge of the chimp’s individual personalities, awarded through careful observation. Each of the chimpanzees had arrived with their own set of physical, emotional, and intellectual characteristics and challenges. The team at Save the Chimps had taken on the enormous task of creating an individual care plan, through observing and recording their specific needs and desires to match them to their family groups, create optimal dietary plans, and tend to their health care.
We share 98.8% of our DNA with chimpanzees. They are majestic and mischievous and love interacting with each other, something that most of the chimpanzees at Save the Chimps were deprived of in their previous situations. Chimpanzees do not live alone in the wild. Like humans, most prefer companionship, interacting with others within their own defined social hierarchy. We constantly consider what new needs must be addressed, and our chimpanzees remind us to do so through their revolving needs.
2021 has been a milestone year for us as we have seen almost all our special-needs chimpanzees, of which there was a handful, successfully integrated into family groups. This has been a hard-won battle as they had unique and difficult circumstances, but the tenacity of the team has resulted in friendship and companionship for these most difficult cases.
Allie was 19 years old when she arrived at Save the Chimps and had been a pet for the first part of her life before being sent back to the breeding facility where she came from. As a result, she had very limited experiences with other chimpanzees and was more comfortable interacting with human care technicians than other chimps. She didn’t really act like a chimp and preferred to look at books and watch movies, making her integration into a chimp family very challenging.
Chimpanzees thrive with socialization, so our committed team employed our strategic approach which involves a group of personnel determining the best approach, reviewing the plan closely before, during, and after the introduction to other chimpanzees. At first, Allie was anxious but when she met Spike, they quickly bonded.
This happens often where a chimpanzee makes one friend and then expands their friend’s circle once they become more comfortable. Once the bond with Spike was established, Allie was able to be successfully introduced to other members of Tanya’s family. She quickly started to exhibit typical chimpanzee behaviors like grooming and asking for reassurance from other chimps. She became less interested in human interaction.
Today, Allie is a full-fledged member of Tanya’s family and spends most of her time exploring her 5-acre island, climbing trees, and napping in the shade.
I hope that 2021 has been a good year for you despite the challenges we all face together. If you can support our mission of providing dedicated care for our chimpanzee family, we would be so grateful for you to help us meet our 2021 fundraising goal. The revenue that is raised from our supporters is vital to our ability to deliver on our mission each year – to provide sanctuary and exemplary care to chimpanzees in need.
Wishing you a wonderful new year,
Board Member, Save the Chimps
P.S I am always humbled by the level of care and devotion by the staff team at Save the Chimps. Mostly, I am honored to share their commitment to serve the chimpanzees who are in our care. Please consider making a special gift before Dec. 31 to save on your taxes. All gifts will be matched and support our chimpanzee residents.