|Save the Chimps is grieving the loss of two unique and charming gentleman, Jeb and Oliver, who both passed away of heart disease. “A great man is one who leaves others at a loss after he is gone.” Paul Valery
Jeb, an elderly male with a unique heavy brow and freckled face, was a kind gentleman despite his horrific past. His date of birth is listed as May 21, 1970, but since he was purchased from a known primate importer, and he looked much older than 43 years, Jeb was likely born in Africa sometime in the 1960s. He was acquired by the Air Force in the 1970s, and spent part of his life on loan to a lab in Maryland known as Litton Bionetics. Jeb was used extensively in a number of invasive medical research projects from a very young age. He was injected with a number of different foreign substances, including hormones and retroviruses, to test the effects on his body.
Jeb also received very questionable care: in May 1996, Jeb was reported to be lethargic and not using his left arm. He was anesthetized five times over a period of 9 days before it was discovered that he had a broken clavicle on the fifth examination. (There is no indication that his arm and shoulder were even examined during the previous four exams, and no pain medication was prescribed during that time period.) Jeb must have been suffering in silent agony for those nine days.
Jeb also spent part of his life in the breeding program at The Coulston Foundation research laboratory, fathering seven children. Four of his children, Capone, Guilder, Marissa, and Rupiah, are residents of Save the Chimps. Two of his daughters, Jo Ellen and Sakari, are believed to reside at Alamogordo Primate Facility, waiting for their turn to be retired to a sanctuary. His son Clayton sadly was denied the dignified retirement that he deserved; used in hepatitis C research, Clayton was euthanized this year at New Iberia Primate Research Center, due to kidney and liver disease.
Jeb was rescued by Save the Chimps in 2002, where he was found living with a group of fellow senior chimpanzees: Lou, Ted, George, and Roman. Jeb first became a member of Carlos’ Group and migrated to Florida in 2007, where he found a beautiful, spacious island waiting for him. When Carlos’ Group disbanded in 2010, Jeb became a beloved member of his old friend Lou’s Group.
Jeb was a sweet old man with an eye for the ladies. He preferred the company of his fellow chimpanzees, especially his paramours Olivia and Opal. He was also a surrogate father to young Braedon, whom we hope learned well from Jeb’s guidance. He seemed to regard humans as his waiters and housekeepers (and he was right to do so!) He was especially fond of oranges and peanuts, two of his favorite foods. After being locked away in a barren cage for decades, he relished his new life in Florida. He loved the outdoors, and he spent as much time as possible with grass under his feet and blue skies overhead. Perhaps he retained some memory of his brief childhood in an African forest, but we will never know. It is fitting that Jeb’s last moments were spent outside, watching the sun rise one warm Monday morning. He passed away suddenly of heart failure out on his island, in the company of his chimpanzee family.
For the first thirteen years of his life, Oliver was shuttled between three different research labs before finally finding sanctuary at Save the Chimps. Oliver was born February 22, 1989, at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio, TX to his mother Lisa and father Eric. He remained with his mother for one day before being removed from her and taken to the laboratory nursery. Just before his third birthday, Oliver was assigned to a research study.Little Oliver was held down while a nasogastric tube was pushed up his nose and then down into his stomach. An unknown compound was delivered into his stomach; who knows what long-term effects this mysterious substance had on Oliver’s body.
Just two months before his fourth birthday, Oliver was shipped across the country to another research lab known as Bioqual. He spent a little over three months there having a virus sprayed into his nose and trachea, before being shipped back to Texas. In the spring of 1998, he was packed up again, and sent to The Coulston Foundation (TCF) in New Mexico, the largest and most notorious chimpanzee research lab in the country. There, Oliver was assigned to an extremely invasive and painful experiment: The Spinal Dynamics study. In this study, chimpanzees underwent surgery to remove a healthy spinal disc from their neck. The disc was replaced with an experimental prosthesis. Approximately four months after receiving the prosthesis, Oliver underwent another surgery to have it removed. There is no evidence that Oliver received pain medication after either surgery. Oliver was left without a spinal disc between two of his vertebrae.
In 2002, Oliver’s life changed when he was rescued by Save the Chimps. He would never undergo a biomedical research protocol again. He quickly became familiar—and beloved—by his new caregivers in part due to his unusually light face and robust jaw, features he shared with his half-brother Garfield, one of the first residents of Save the Chimps. Olly, as he was known, also had an unusual hunched posture—perhaps due in part to the missing disc in his spine. He loved blankets, and often carried a large pile of them for comfort. Oliver did find it challenging to adjust to social life with other chimps, but he at last became a member of Late’s Group. Together he and his new family embarked on one final journey, this time to a beautiful island home in Florida. Oliver embraced island life, experiencing the chance to run and roam over hills for the first time in his life.
Much to our shock and sorrow, Oliver succumbed suddenly to cardiac fibrosis, a largely undetectable and untreatable form of heart disease that is seen all too often in captive chimpanzees. Not two hours before his passing he had been spotted out on his island, out and about with his fellow chimpanzees.
Jeb and Oliver, our lives and the lives of your chimpanzee friends and family are a little less bright now that you are gone. We loved your striking faces and winsome personalities. We are grateful for the time we had together, and will cherish your memories for as long as we live. We honor the two of you, Clayton, and all of the other chimpanzees to whom we owe a debt that cannot be repaid.
May you rest in peace.
Thank you for supporting Save the Chimps and providing Jeb, Oliver, and over 250 others, the life they have always deserved.