I was born to parents Tami and Rufus on March 19, 1986. Despite Tami being a good mother and me reaching the critical milestone of nursing, I was taken from her at five days old and sent to the nursery to be raised by human caregivers. Although it’s possible this was in anticipation of needing hernia surgery at just eleven days old, taking infants from their mothers was a common practice in the laboratory setting. After experiencing the usual bouts of childhood illnesses of stomach issues and respiratory infections that seemed to run through the nursery, I was placed in my first study at just 18 months old. Instead of the comfort of my mother’s warm embrace and the wisdom of her guidance, my life was cold stainless steel and sharp needles.
At two and a half years old, I had an alarming episode where my body temperature dropped below normal and I required immediate medical intervention. My caregivers found me in a “deep sleep” and couldn’t wake me up with loud noises, touch, or even water to my face. When the usual techniques were unsuccessful, my caregiver picked me up and I finally responded to being handled. They placed me next to a heater and treated me for shock. My body temperature returned to normal and despite the incident, I was used as part of a study just four days later.
Over the next few years I would be sedated many, many times as I continued to be placed on consecutive studies. My life became a blur of weekly blood draws and monthly liver biopsies. Other times throat cultures were done one to three times per week. During this time, I continued to suffer from fevers and a sore throat but was never given a reprieve from the research schedule. In my laboratory files, I was described as very dominant and aggressive. When asked if there was a particular caregiver I liked, the response was that I was “antagonistic towards humans.” Other than those couple of comments, they didn’t have much else to say about me.
When Save the Chimps took over The Coulston Foundation in September 2002 things began to look up for me. Many changes took place, including adding fresh fruits and vegetables to every meal. I’m especially fond of apples and get very excited when my caregivers save an extra one just for me! We also started to receive blankets and other nesting materials every day. Chimpanzees in the wild make a new nest every night and we were now given the same opportunity.
I migrated to Florida in May 2009 as a member of Kiley’s family. I have a beautiful island home to explore with my friends. I’m surrounded by humans who love me and enjoy my company. Although I can be a bit aloof toward caregivers at first, I will warm up over time. It may take a bit of encouragement, but I love a good play session. Once I get going, I hop around like a goofy frog, showing what a sweet-natured boy I really am. When I’m feeling silly, I like to put my toes through the mesh to be tickled with a tickle stick. If I’m really excited, I will even do somersaults! Other times I will play chase, running from one end of the building to the other.
Over time it seems I’ve become more comfortable with other chimps and have formed close relationships with a couple males in my group. I also like to hang out with the girls, especially holding hands with Cookie. But my favorite role of all may be as the official foot inspector for the chimps in my family. During a grooming session I like to take hold of someone’s foot and examine it closely. Overall, I’ve become much more playful with chimps in my family and enjoy tickling and being goofy with the old ladies in the group who seem to appreciate that I can play without getting too rough! In this nurturing environment, I have the support and opportunity to relax and recover from my past.