Mandy was one of the smallest and cutest chimpanzees we ever had the pleasure to know.
She, like all of our older chimpanzee residents, was born in Africa. After being captured and taken from her mother and family, she spent the first 10-15 years of her life at a laboratory called the Buckshire Corporation before being sold to the notorious Coulston Foundation laboratory. Although the records are sparse, she was used in breeding and research for the next 25 years. But this tribute is not about her traumatic and difficult past. This is about the Mandy we all knew and loved – and indeed, we all loved this petite but mighty chimp. Her caregiver, Skye, truly captures what we all wanted to say about Mandy in the following words.
My friend, Mandy
by Skye Connors, Chimp Care Supervisor
Mandy loved the simple pleasures in life that accompanied retirement at Save the Chimps. She loved being out on the island. She was almost always the last to come up for meals and often chose to sit on the outdoor patio area rather than come inside for her fresh fruit and vegetables. Even in inclement weather, she could be found outside enjoying the cool air, light rain, and her freedom.
One of my fondest memories of Mandy was the time a turtle was laying eggs on Seve’s island. The group kept their distance and alarm barked at this intruder. But little Mandy approached the turtle to examine it closely. She sat herself down a few feet away and watched, almost protectively, until the turtle finished laying her eggs. Then Mandy led the party that followed the turtle back to the water and watched as the turtle swam away. She seemed to have no fear or ill will towards the turtle, just curiosity.
Mandy had many wonderful friendships. Some, like Yvette, go back to the days at the Coulston Foundation lab and they remained together all the way to Mandy’s last breath. Yvette was her constant companion, always ready to comfort Mandy with a hug. When the younger males in the group were acting rambunctious, Mandy and Yvette could be found hugging one another for support. The two of them made me smile. All Mandy had to do was hold out her arms towards Yvette and Yvette would come running to embrace her. When Mandy didn’t want to come inside or wanted to “sleep in” on a magnificent nest she had built, Yvette would get food and deliver it to Mandy, a very unusual behavior for chimpanzees. The two old ladies always roamed the island together, relaxing in the sun side-by-side on one of their many climbing structures, always touching one another in some way.
Kendra was also a beloved friend to Mandy. They were often seen playing at meal times or on the island. Kendra would grab Mandy’s feet or hands and gently tug on them, which made Mandy laugh. When coming in off the island for meals, Kendra would come into the building first, scout out the room and, if the group was calm, Kendra would go to the door opening and reach her hand out for Mandy to come inside. Mandy was so petite that Kendra often helped Mandy climb through the door, which is only a foot off the ground. Sometimes, Mandy would still be reluctant to come inside, and Kendra would whimper until her friend relented and took Kendra’s outstretched hand. I always kept the door open after Kendra came in because I knew Mandy was likely to follow. To the very end, Kendra was also by her side.
Mandy was a very gentle chimp, but she also had a fiery side. That little old lady could keep the big, rambunctious boys in line when she wanted to. Every now and then, you knew one of the younger males had offended Mandy when you heard her voice echoing around the Sanctuary. Looking out, you would see little Mandy—always with Yvette and Kendra close behind—chasing a chimp half her age and twice her size.
It took Mandy a while to accept me as her caregiver. I had to earn her affection. In her eyes, I was there to feed her and give her enrichment, not much more. Finally, after months of working exclusively with her family group, I got my first Mandy love. Mandy had come in from the island and I greeted her, as I do with all the chimps. She surprised me by reaching out her hand, putting her fingers through the mesh in a welcoming gesture. For the first time, she turned her back and allowed me to give her a back rub with a short piece of hose we call a tickle stick. This soon became a common interaction between us and I always felt grateful to have earned her trust. I loved and respected this dignified lady for the person she was.
Mandy was probably the best nest-builder Save the Chimps has ever had. Before leaving every day, Mandy and Yvette would come up at the end of dinner to collect clean blankets for their evening nests. We gave them as many as they wanted. Mandy would fuss over the blankets to get them just right, in a perfect circle around her tiny body. The last day we had with her, my fellow caregiver T and I dropped every large, fuzzy blanket in the building down to her. She built one of her wonderful nests and I told her I loved her. I never imagined that would be the last time I saw her. I miss her terribly.
- Nest of blankets