I was born October 21, 1988, at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico to my mother Alison, and father Hanzie. I was allowed to remain with my mother for just ten days before I was taken from her, a moment that was frightening for me, and heartbreaking for my mom. For the next 14 years, I was anesthetized for physicals and bloodwork approximately four times per year, but for unknown reasons, I was never assigned to a biomedical research study.
When the Air Force got out of the chimpanzee research business, I was transferred to the Coulston Foundation (TCF), a private research lab also located in Alamogordo, New Mexico. I was used as a breeder at TCF and fathered two children, Bell and Braeden when I was only 11 years old. In 2002, the Coulston Foundation was on the verge of bankruptcy, due to repeated Animal Welfare Act violations, and Save the Chimps stepped in to rescue 266 chimpanzees. It took nine years to move all of us from New Mexico to Save the Chimps’ sanctuary in Florida, and I arrived to my new home in 2011.
Due to my deprived social upbringing, it was initially difficult for me to adapt to living in a large social group. The staff was dedicated to finding a family that I would fit in with and over time, I became more comfortable making friends and joined a large chimpanzee family known as Late’s family.
Once I made friends, my personality began to shine through. I enjoy spending time and eating meals with my good friend, Marc. My caregivers have noticed that I love to play with large toys. I kick them around the room and throw them up in the air, even if no one else is interested in playing. Sometimes I even stand on my head and kick balls with my feet! I don’t always like to engage with my caregivers, but when I do we have vigorous play sessions.
I enjoy spending time outside and my caregivers usually see me on a platform at the very back of my island relaxing each morning, soaking in the early sunlight. I love food and goodies, so I am always trying to convince my caregivers to give me something extra! I sometimes get so excited for meals or enrichment that I let out high-pitched “food squeaks” (a chimp vocalization to express excitement for food) that almost sound like screams! My favorite enrichment is “raisin boards” which are blocks made of recycled plastic with holes stuffed with raisins. I also really like to be squirted with the hose my caregivers use to clean. I wiggle around while they lightly spray me. I also like the misters that my caregivers put up on hot days.
I am extremely intelligent and expressive, so it doesn’t take long for my caregivers to figure out what I want. I even point to things I want and let out three distinctive breathy sounds (hah hah hah) to emphasize the importance of my request!
My caregivers worked hard to find a social setting that worked for me, and as a result, I have completely transformed from the chimpanzee I was when I lived in a lab. Now I am always surrounded by the love, companionship, and freedoms I need to thrive.
- Hard plastic toys