On The 2nd Day of Thanks

November 22nd, 2014 by Diana

Yesterday, J.B. introduced you to our Seven Days of Thanks by posting about the dedicated, full-of-heart staff caregivers that give so much every day to the chimpanzees.

Today, I would like to shout from the highest mountain a thank you to the founder of the sanctuary, Keith LaChappelle, all past board members, and our current board of directors.

There would certainly be no Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest without the vision, foresight, commitment, and determination that Keith and the founding board harnessed to start this organization from scratch – taking it from an idea to help chimpanzees in need to a physical sanctuary that has cared for seven of the greatest primates I know for the last six and a half years.


J.B. and Keith during construction of the chimpanzees first outdoor area (what is now the greenhouse):

Keith and J.B.


Negra and Keith:

Keith and Negra


Keith and his friend Nick, helping with the sprinkler system installation this summer:

Keith and Nick


There are a lot of people who have the desire to start a sanctuary, but only a fraction of them see their dream become a reality. Starting a sanctuary is not easy in any respect, and it takes a profound amount of work in so many disparate areas to be successful.

Keith officially founded Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest in 2003 by bringing together people with varied expertise and the shared desire to make a difference and personally purchasing the sanctuary property to lease to the organization. Ground breaking for the sanctuary began soon after, but it wasn’t until 2007 that the future inhabitants, the seven chimpanzees we all love so much now, were identified.

There have been many incredible people involved in the important work of leading the strategy of the organization as members of the board of directors over the last eleven years, making critical and sometimes difficult decisions. Board members are often the unseen and unsung heroes of nonprofits, carrying the huge responsibility of the organization’s health and vision.

We recently had our annual board retreat, which renewed my admiration for our current and past board members. Having a team of people focused on the same mission, with the same goals for the future, is essential and also inspiring.

board annual meeting

Thanks to our retreat facilitator Susan Howlett for the above photo that looks staged – we really were all concentrating that hard!


The best way to show the impact of the work of Keith and all board members who have carried the organization from it’s idea phase to today is to show how far we’ve come.

Below are a few shots of the different phases of the sanctuary over the years:


greenhouse framing

greenhouse construction

Missy chase Foxie

raceway to young's hill construction

young's hill construction platforms

chimps on platforms

mobile clinic




And here is the very first photo that I put on our website after the chimpanzees arrived on June 13, 2008 – a photo of  Negra:

negra day one


Negra in the same spot this morning:

Negra room four 5

Negra room four 3

Negra room four 2

Negra room four 1

Negra room four 4

These photos of Negra reminded me to let you all know that sculptures of Negra via artist Jason Shanaman are available as part of our eight ways to celebrate the holidays! Check out Holiday Central for more info.


7 Days of Thanks

November 21st, 2014 by J.B.

In the spirit of the upcoming holiday, we’ve decided to spend the next seven days giving thanks for all of the primates – human and nonhuman – that make this sanctuary what it is. To start, I’d like to recognize the folks that literally dedicate their lives to the well being of the Cle Elum Seven. No one has had more of a direct impact on the lives of these chimpanzees than the staff that care for them each and every day.

The other day I came across this photo of Jamie, taken just days after she had arrived at the sanctuary in 2008.

web Jamie old 100_0095 copy 2

It’s amazing how much she has changed.

web Jamie sit log bridge beneath structure YH IMG_6302

When I look at Jamie now, I see the effects of good food, exercise, and sunshine. But I also see a reflection of the people that care for her and the patience, dedication, and selflessness they bring to their work.

Caring for Jamie is not easy. She tests you nearly every day. While some people would consider getting to work with chimps a dream job, their dream version of the job probably doesn’t involve dodging mouthfuls of spit and handfuls of feces on a daily basis. But that is the reality. Jamie is a smart, strong-willed person with a need for control, and for 30 years she was robbed of her autonomy and with it, her dignity. Now she calls the shots. For the first time in her life she is surrounded by people who are willing to put her first.

web Jamie drum barrel look at camera start display playroom PR IMG_2137

That, to me, is the essence of a caregiver’s role. And I’m amazed each and every day by how much of themselves the staff are willing to put into the care of these chimpanzees. Whether it’s cleaning, preparing meals, or taking one last walk around Young’s Hill after a long day, the sanctuary staff are willing to do whatever it takes to keep the chimps happy.


There is a light in Jamie’s eye that wasn’t there when we first met her in that laboratory basement.

web Jamie hopeful close up eyes bright gh _MG_1655

To the people who work so hard to keep that light shining, we give our thanks.


web Foxie caregiver elizabeth troll party enrichment cute outdoor area DSC_0191

Charlotte Ross at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest


web katelyn foxie gum caregiver serving




Light Reading

November 20th, 2014 by Elizabeth

I caught Jamie catching up on a magazine the other day.





In memory of Carlene Garza

November 19th, 2014 by Katelyn

Today we would like to honor the memory of a wonderful friend of the chimpanzees, Carlene Garza, and share a little of her life with you. How do you sum up a life in a few words? A valid question of course, and perhaps an impossible one to answer. But sometimes, even a small insight to a person, be it a kindness they offered, the way they chose to live their life, or the others whose lives have been made better for having known them, can show you just how big their spirit is and speaks larger than words ever could. Carlene was a long time supporter of the chimpanzees and followed our blog on a daily basis. Sadly, her family shared with us that she recently passed away after a long illness and we have been profoundly touched to learn of the impact the chimpanzees had on her life. Her husband, Joseph, graciously shared Carlene’s feelings about the work we do and the chimpanzees:

“Carlene became interested in the plight of chimpanzees’ in this country after viewing a documentary on the subject. She then went online to see what else she could find and stumbled on your website. When she got done reading the story about your sanctuary and the biographies of each of your charges, she was hooked. She visited your site and connected to your animals through Facebook and hardly a day went by that she did not check-in to see what they had been up to and new from the office. She had her favorites of course, Burrito, Foxie, and Jamie, but circumstances prevented us from supporting your great work in the manner we had wished. When Carlene became ill and we knew that there was no recovery, Carlene had asked that I do something for her friends at CSNW. I promised her I would do what I could. Carlene’s passing came way too soon and I decided that in honor of my dear wife, I would ask that family and friends make a donation to CSNW in memory of her. The success of this campaign has grown beyond my wildest dreams and I know that somewhere my wife has a big smile on her face because she was finally able to help her friends at the sanctuary. My hope is that periodically family and friends will think about Carlene, remember her cause and continue to support your work there at the sanctuary.”

We are deeply touched by Carlene’s story and are honored to have received many donations for the chimpanzees as a result of her and her family and friends. And they continue to come in!

Carlene and “the first love of her life,” King:


As if the Garza family has not been generous enough, Joseph also requested that he be able to send Carlene’s cowboy boots to Jamie as a special gift. Well, in perfect timing they just arrived and we couldn’t wait for Jamie to see them! After a quick safety inspection, we asked volunteer caregiver, Sandra, to model them for Jamie’s surprise.  Jamie usually wants to immediately inspect new boots, but this time she immediately wanted Sandra to wear them for a walk around Young’s Hill!


Upon their return, Jamie was ready to take a closer look at her gift:


Jamie loves to groom her boots after they’ve been out for an adventure:


Jamie asked for the boots after this photo and we passed them through the safety chute to her where she promptly held them to her forehead, a moment of pure boot love. Then she disappeared with them to the very top of the greenhouse where she built a nest with them. I couldn’t climb quite high enough to get a clear photo, but you can just make out the tips of the boots under her chin:


Joseph, we cannot thank you and your family enough for all you have done for the chimpanzees. We are incredibly moved that you would choose to make their lives better and at a time when you have suffered such immeasurable loss. Please know that the chimpanzees lives have been made better as a result of your and Carlene’s incredible generosity, along with that of your family and friends. And the life of one who has made the lives of so many others better, is a life to celebrate. We are honored to celebrate Carlene’s memory with you today. From all of the primates at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, we send you our deepest gratitude and wish you the comfort and joy that Carlene has shared with so many others.

Joseph kindly shared Carlene’s obituary with us. If you would like to learn more about the live of this beautiful woman, you may do so here.

Bobbing for apples

November 18th, 2014 by Debbie

It’s fall time and that means apples are very plentiful. Today we decided to let the chimps bob for apples! We filled buckets with water and added small whole apples. As predicted, no one really “bobbed” for their apples—they just used their hands :) But they definitely loved the forage—food squeaks were echoing through the chimp house as we scattered the buckets around.

Jamie in particular loves whole apples and she gets very excited whenever we include them in forages. Today was no different, and she was sure to get her share (and then some!) But everyone else enjoyed the forage as well.






After all that foraging, Jamie curled up for a nice nap in the sun:


Eye Contact

November 17th, 2014 by Keri

Eye contact can be a powerful and effective way of communicating between individuals. Sometimes all it takes to form a deep and everlasting connection with someone is to stare into each other’s eyes. No words need to be exchanged to solidify the connection or explain what the other is thinking. A long gaze into each other’s eyes can act as a recognition of kindred beings; an exchange that allows for acceptance of one another.

Sharing such an intimate act as eye gazing with each of the chimpanzees here at the sanctuary is something I truly cherish. It has helped create and solidify a bond of friendship, connection, acceptance and compassion over the years.

I understand that many of you may not have the chance to personally look into the eyes of a chimpanzee, so I wanted to share with you as best I can what it is like to look into the eyes of these seven magnetic beings.

Can you guess whose eyes are whose?





web_burrito cropped mid chew chow look at camera gh forage IMG_3755



Here’s Looking at You

November 16th, 2014 by Elizabeth

I was taking a few close-up photos of Burrito enjoying his chow bag after lunch today, and he realized that he could see his reflection in the camera lens. He seemed pleased with what he saw.










Chimpanzee Pretzel Play

November 15th, 2014 by Diana

We have said it before – and I’ll say it again now – no one, whether human or chimpanzee, can bring out the goofiness in Jamie like Foxie can. This video is a must-see if you need a little boost to your day.

And here’s that chimpanzee pretzel photo:

Jamie and Foxie in a Chimpanzee Pretzel

More avian enrichment

November 14th, 2014 by J.B.

Hank the Hawk has had some competition lately from a bald eagle that has been hunting at the sanctuary. Bernard, as we are now calling this new visitor, is almost twice the size of Hank, with a 6- or 7-foot wingspan.


Last weekend, he touched down about 100 yards from Young’s Hill.


We’re not sure if the chimps have noticed him yet, but the other day Negra was alarm calling like crazy as she looked out the window. Perhaps this is what she saw:


The arctic blast is still making life here miserably cold, but today the air was still and the sun was shining, so the chimps took the opportunity to spend some time outside. Jody seemed quite content at first, despite the cold.


She and Missy perched themselves on some stumps while Foxie and Annie explored the rest of Young’s Hill and Jamie patrolled the perimeter of the enclosure.



After a while, however, Jody’s look of contentment dissolved into her characteristic sneer of discomfort, or “cold face” as we call it, and she headed back to the warmth of the greenhouse.


You can almost see her cursing the arctic blast.


Jamie, on the other hand, is not fazed by bald eagles or arctic blasts.


You Win Some, You Lose Some

November 13th, 2014 by Elizabeth

Jamie lost a fight this morning. (Don’t worry – only her pride was injured.) Volunteer caregiver Denice and I were cleaning the playroom when shrill screaming broke out in the front rooms. I didn’t see what started the fight, but once I got to a place where I could observe, I could tell that some of the chimpanzees had a bone to pick with Jamie. Because Jamie is the alpha, it takes a lot of guts to stand up to her. Sometimes it seems that once one chimp works up the courage to tell Jamie what’s what, the others are more likely to join in.

During this morning’s dispute, Negra, Jody, and Annie had Jamie cornered in one of the front rooms. (Foxie and Burrito were doing their best to stay out of things, and Missy was hedging her bets and backing everyone up.) While most fights don’t actually involve a lot of physical contact between the chimps, there is always a lot of screaming and posturing. Eventually, everyone will say what they need to say, someone will back down, and the fight will be over. This morning it was Jamie who backed down; there really wasn’t much she could do against Negra, Jody, and Annie’s trifecta of fury.

Jamie runs a tight ship around here, and it’s not surprising that once in awhile the other chimps reach the end of their ropes and let her know. But I always feel a little sorry for Jamie when this happens. Her sense of self is completely intertwined with her dominance, and it can’t feel good to lose the control she works so hard for, even for a moment. Imagine that it’s your job to manage an office full of employees, typically obedient, who one day revolt against you without warning. You’re likely to feel angry, unsettled, and a little afraid.

But if there’s one thing we know about Jamie, it’s that she never loses her footing for long. After today’s fight she spent some time outside to clear her head:


and then took a rejuvenating rest.