Fifteen years ago today, Save the Chimps’ founder, Dr. Carole Noon, passed away of pancreatic cancer in her home on sanctuary property.

She remains an inspiration to all the lives she touched and a motivator to carry on her important work. More than 300 chimpanzees have found the peaceful and dignified retirement they deserve, thanks to the tireless work of Dr. Carole Noon and the founding of Save the Chimps.

Today, we would like to share one of what she called “Carole Noon’s Chimp Diaries.” These letters to staff were always full of wit and charm as she updated everyone on the latest happenings at the sanctuary.

Your gift in honor of Dr. Carole Noon will support our continued mission to provide exemplary care to chimpanzees in need.


December 29, 2004

Dear Diary,


In 2001, the 21 Air Force chimpanzees arrived in Florida. I remember clearly many of my first impressions of the chimps while they were still in their cages on the truck which brought them from New Mexico. Hannah was in the corner cage rocking back and forth furiously. Hanzie was rattling the door demanding his breakfast—business as usual for Hanzie. Garfield simply took my breath away when I first laid eyes on him. Faith arrived with no hair and her skin was so pink like a baby mouse. I remember Amy, who took an instant dislike to me, and all the bald spots where she had plucked out her hair. Marty liked me straight away and I felt the same way. And I remember Gromek because he is so handsome and so enjoyed scaring me by pounding on the side of his cage and making me jump. He still does.

As Dana’s cage was rolled off the truck, the driver said, “This is Dana; she likes coffee.” Outside of that comment, I have no recollection of Dana at all, no first impression. This entry in Carole’s Chimp Diary is about Dana—the chimp I don’t remember arriving in Florida.

We started introducing the chimps to each other the very next day. Who should Hanzie meet? His medical records revealed a heart condition so serious that I debated about even including him in the introductions. And he was old, born in Africa 40-plus years ago. Dana, also old and born in Africa, was the one we picked, and the doors that separated them were opened.

Dana made the first move and pretty soon she and Hanzie were playing. After a few more introductions it became clear that Dana was good at this. No, Dana was a genius. When she met great big Waylon, who was too afraid to even look at her, Dana went right up to him, put her hand under his chin and lifted his face so they could look at each other. Waylon melted. So did I.

It is no exaggeration to say that my trusted partner in the formation of the Air Force group was Dana. I never made a move without her, often sending her in first during the introductions to gather more information. Sometimes I felt guilty that I was exploiting her more than the lab ever did! Dana and I formed a special bond. I would do anything for her.

The day we opened the doors to the island, Dana went out looking completely overwhelmed as her eyes darted in all directions. When she made eye contact with Waylon she ran over to him and they hugged—I could barely see her surrounded by his great big arms. Shortly after their hug, Gromek, Wes, Marty, Emory, and Garfield decided to explore. As they walked away from the building Dana all but yelled, “Wait up guys, I am coming with you!” as she rushed to join them.

She is the only female who went on that first expedition and it wasn’t as easy as you might think given her obvious arthritis. They explored the whole island and disappeared behind the mini mountain range we built. They couldn’t see us and we couldn’t see them.

I am hoping this is one of those moments I will revisit if my life ever ‘flashes before my eyes.’

Chimpanzees, they are amazing people.


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