Much of my early history is unknown, though it is likely that I was born in Africa in the early 1970s. In the 1960s and ‘70s, young chimpanzees were often taken from the wild and exported to the United States for biomedical research and the pet trade. Because adult chimpanzees are extremely strong, mothers and other group members were often killed in the effort to obtain infant chimpanzees. Sadly, it is very probable that this is among my earliest memories.
I spent most of my life as a pet chimpanzee. I first belonged to a family who kept me until 1975, and was then acquired by a second family who cared for me for the next 34 years. While I was still very young, I lived with my family inside their home. My family described me as delicate and gentle, and would call me “the little lady.” In 1981, I was joined by Billy, a young male chimpanzee, and we grew up together as brother and sister. However, like all chimpanzees, as Billy and I grew we became too strong to safely live within a human household. Eventually, I had to spend all of my time in a cage for my own safety and the safety of others. Over the years, my cage fell into disrepair and despite my human family’s best efforts, it became more challenging to provide the care and housing Billy and I needed. Eventually, state wildlife officials decreed that Billy and I had to be relocated. Fortunately, Save the Chimps was able to step in and provide Billy and me with lifetime care at their Sanctuary in Florida. I now enjoy life on an expansive 3 acre island, complete with grass, hills, trees, climbing structures, platforms, and swings. Best of all, I now have the companionship of an entire chimpanzee family.
Many former chimpanzee pets struggle to make new friends in sanctuary, but not me! Although I had only minimal interaction with other chimpanzees throughout my life, I surprised everyone by adapting to chimp life at lightning speed. Hugging every new chimpanzee I met, I was bold, confident, and gentle in my introductions to my new family, called Tanya’s group. I immediately appointed myself as grandmother to young Gabe, and his mother Gabby seemed thrilled to have the help! I became Sonny’s partner in crime, and to this day we have a sibling-like relationship – complete with the occasional little squabble that ends in a big hug of forgiveness. You might never know I am a former pet unless you caught a glimpse of my rare human-like behavior. I am occasionally given shoes as enrichment and although most chimps use them as toys, I sometimes wear them – I even put them on the correct feet. I particularly like slippers, and when I don’t wear them I carry them and incorporate them into my nests, just to enjoy their softness. In fact, I love all things cozy, and often relax in hammocks. I love to be outside on my island and can be seen most afternoons sunbathing and grooming with friends. I even climb the oak tree at times. My favorite food is corn, and I do a little happy jiggle when I receive it! It is clear, however, that what I love most is spending time with my chimpanzee family.
I am dearly loved by both my chimpanzee family and my caregivers. I am sassy and bold, but also incredibly gentle and patient. Even though Gabe is no longer a baby, I still play with him, comfort him, and watch over him every day.
We are thrilled that Vicky thrives at Save the Chimps, where she will always have an abundance of loving care, companionship, and choices.
- Sunbathing on her island