Nuri was born on December 21, 1966, at what was then known as Delta Regional Primate Research Center in Louisiana (now known as Tulane National Primate Research Center.) Her parents’ names are unknown, but her mother was #359, and her father #378. When Nuri was 14, she was moved to The Coulston Foundation, becoming the 12th chimp acquired by Dr. Frederick Coulston’s new research lab. She immediately entered the breeding program. She gave birth to four children over the years, two of whom died within 24 hours of birth. A son, Buckwheat, died when he was nine years old. A daughter, Ashley, born May 11, 1985, may still be alive, but her whereabouts are unknown. Nuri also suffered multiple miscarriages over the years.
Nuri’s use in the breeding program stopped in 1994, and as far as we know, she spent the next several years in isolation. When Nuri was rescued in 2002, she was living alone in “The Dungeon.” Her knees were permanently bent, a condition never noted in her laboratory file. It became apparent quite quickly that Nuri carried a painful internal anguish. When STC’s founder Dr. Carole Noon would turn out the lights at the end of another day in the Dungeon, Nuri would start to scream. It was a scream that evoked loneliness and terror, a scream that said “Don’t leave me!” So we would always return to her and try to comfort her for a bit. She didn’t cry all night long, thank goodness, but walking out at the end of the day became a sad experience for all. Thankfully, over time, she stopped screaming when the lights went out.
Nuri was shy, but very gentle, with other chimps. Although she had no trouble living in a chimp family with Thoto, Scarlett, Millie, and Shakey, she did feel insecure in open spaces. Sadly, she never chose to go outside onto the island when she arrived in Florida. But Nuri found joy in other things. She loved unusual, colorful objects, such as knit hats, Hawaiian shirts, purses, or small toys. She carried them with her, and these objects became known as her “babies.”
She also loved gazing out the window of her rooms in Florida. Although she opted not to venture outdoors, she seemed enamored of the sights and sounds of the world outside. Her window is very empty without her in it.
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