Archive for the ‘Advocacy’ Category

How Apps for Apes helps conservation

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

In his first post, Rich Zimmerman introduced us to the plight of free-living orangutans in Indonesia. Here he tells us how his program, Orangutan Outreach, has helped with some of the issues orangutans face and how Apps for Apes helps raise awareness for those efforts.

How has your work with Orangutan Outreach influenced conservation efforts in Indonesia?

Since its inception, Orangutan Outreach has been able to make a notable impact in the ongoing struggle to save the orangutans. Over the past few years we’ve been able to make substantial financial contributions to our strategic partners in the field, including Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS), IAR, Center for Orangutan Protection (COP) and SOCP. These funds go to rescuing, caring for, relocating, rehabilitating, and releasing individual orangutans back to the forest in Borneo and Sumatra. Working with our partners in the field, we’ve helped fund the rescue of individuals who, without our help, would otherwise have perished or been smuggled out of Indonesia by illegal animal traders. Our support has contributed immensely to the success of the BOS Nyaru Menteng orangutan releases. This release program is the first of its kind in history. BOS is literally re-creating a genetically stable population of orangutans in the wild and we are honored to be able to help them.

In addition to the work on the ground, Orangutan Outreach does a lot of online advocacy on behalf of the orangutans via our website, and our social media networks: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube. We’ve been able to bring people together from all over and create hubs of support among our fans and followers.


Rich helping to educate the public about the plight of orangutans. Photo © Orangutan Outreach.

Tell us a little bit about the Apps for Apes program and how this helps both captive and wild orangutans.

Apps for Apes was started a few years ago as a way to provide enrichment to orangutans in zoos and sanctuaries—and has now expanded to include chimpanzees! Apes are highly intelligent creatures who require mental stimulation to keep from growing bored and depressed. Every ape is a unique individual with his or her own particular likes and dislikes, and the quality of life of apes living in zoos and sanctuaries is highly dependent on the amount and type of enrichment they receive on a daily basis. With the Apps for Apes project, we are providing iPads to ape caregivers in order to provide them with unlimited enrichment opportunities. They have access to music, musical instruments, cognitive games, art, painting, drawing, photos and videos. I should also point out that we do not spend a penny on Apps for Apes. All iPads are donated. NatGeo gave us several dozen last year when they upgraded their field staff!

Apps for Apes has three goals: 1) to provide stimulating enrichment & immediate gratification for the apes using iPads, 2) to raise awareness among zoo visitors of the critical need to protect orangutans in the wild, and 3) to promote the conservation efforts of Orangutan Outreach. For Apps for Apes to be truly successful we need to achieve ALL the goals. It’s wonderful to provide something fun for a captive ape, but we want to take it further. We want the iPad enrichment sessions to become ‘teachable moments’. Whether via live caregiver talks or stories on the news, we have a golden opportunity to get people to think about orangutans—to see them as amazing, intelligent beings who are being brutally killed in the wild—and to help them! That’s our larger goal of Apps for Apes—for the apes in captivity to truly become ambassadors for their cousins in the wild.



Puppe and her son Budi at the Toronto Zoo with their keeper Matthew Berridge.  Photos © Tom Pandi for Orangutan Outreach.

What can we do at home to help with conservation efforts?

People should try their best to avoid products that contain palm oil—and spread the word to all their friends. While boycotting all products that contain palm oil is not feasible, one can always make choices in what they buy. Consumers have power. By letting companies know you won’t buy products that contribute to the destruction of orangutan habitat you are making a powerful statement! Hopefully soon—but only with outside pressure from environmental groups—there will be products that only contain palm oil that is certifiably sustainable and that has not led to the deteriorating population of orangutans. Until then, use extreme caution when shopping, and read those labels!

A really fun way for people to get involved with orangutan conservation is by adopting an orangutan on our website. The adoptions are virtual—the orangutans stay at the care center (Believe me… people ask!). Adopting an orangutan is a great way for someone to follow along as their adoptee grows up. Donations are critical to keep the projects going, but spreading awareness is also key. People can’t act if they don’t know what’s happening far away in Borneo and Sumatra. We need people to share our website with their friends, join us on Facebook and spread the word. We have lots of online materials for young people to use in school. We cannot save the orangutans alone—only together can we make a difference!

CSNW was fortunate enough to be included in the Apps for Apes program and very much appreciate the iPad we received. Since then, we also got one from Shari H. so now the chimpanzees have two iPads! Now one person can keep Jamie occupied and someone else can play with the other chimps—perfect! Here’s a video of the chimps with their iPads:

Losing your head

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

As you might imagine, routine is very important for the chimpanzees, especially after spending decades in the uncertain environment of labs. We all feel a little better knowing what to expect from our environment and the other beings in it, especially when someone else might have certain control over a situation that we don’t. One example of the chimpanzees’ routine here at CSNW is how we invite them to move from one area to another so that we can clean their enclosures. After we clean the chimpanzees’ play room in the morning we scatter a treat for them to forage for when they are given access to the room again. The chimps know to expect this and as they see us nearing the end of cleaning they start getting excited and want to see what we’re are going to put out for them. This not only helps us encourage them to move to different areas, but also gives them something to look forward to as well as to encourage their natural foraging behavior. But it’s always the chimpanzees’ choice to leave an area or not and if someone wants to stay where they are, well then, we just wait it out until they are ready to leave the area.

Today we decided to give the chimps a special treat by putting out entire heads of lettuce. For whatever reason, the chimps get pretty excited over lettuce in general and of course, it’s extra exciting to be able to have a whole item to yourself as opposed to pieces (kind of like me and chocolate bars, for example).

Jamie, enjoying her lettuce and mildly tolerating the paparazzi:


Despite it being an exciting forage item, the chimpanzees were all generous with one another and at some point, choosing to share their spoils with each other. In this photo, Jody had just asked Jamie for permission to have this lettuce and you can see her glancing to the side where Jamie is sitting out of frame:


Unfortunately, the light wasn’t cooperating for pictures of Negra but I can tell you that she had so many heads of lettuce that she had to scoot across the floor on her bottom all the way back to her nest because her hands and feet were full! Here is Burrito cautiously reaching toward Negra’s stash which she kindly allowed him to do:


Foxie finds some blueberries:


Annie scooped up her lettuce and headed for the greenhouse. But her plan to avoid the crowd failed and she found herself the center of a lot of food peering. Foxie is in the background here:


Foxie and Jody were very persistent in their attempts to convince Annie to share. But Annie was equally persistent in keeping her lettuce for herself. Even if she had to enjoy it in a rather awkward position (you can see Jody waiting patiently behind her):



Annie was surrounded as Foxie continued to peer from above:


Annie eventually did share her last bites with Jody and Foxie. It was probably all the “peer” pressure (sorry, I couldn’t resist). I didn’t catch any photos of Missy because she was smartly cornered away in the top of the playroom, out of sight. But in the end, everyone was able to enjoy some lettuce, whether they found their own, covertly took it from someone else, or found a friend in an altruistic mood.

Eyes on Apes website

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

One of our missions at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest is to advocate for apes everywhere, which is why we developed the program Eyes on Apes. The idea is to have one centralized area for people to learn about issues that apes face both in captivity and in the wild, while providing tools for you to take action.

There’s a lot of great information on the pages for each of the issues (entertainment, pets, roadside zoos, biomedical research, and free-living issues in Africa and Asia).

One thing we just added were some pages on individual trainers in the entertainment industry. This is a really nice resource for people to have when you hear about a chimp in a commercial or movie and are curious what it is like for them with their trainers. Each page lists facts about the trainers, any relevant USDA citations, and links to our action alerts about productions these trainers were involved in.

Please share this site with your friends, and help raise awareness for apes everywhere! You can ask them to sign up for our Take Action list in order to get action alerts and help make a difference for apes everywhere.

Take a look through all the pages—there’s been some makeovers throughout the site, like this informational map showing the current vs. historical population of African apes:


And, since this was a little bit of a wordy post, I thought I’d throw in a picture of Negra from this morning’s breakfast forage on Young’s Hill:


Is successful reintroduction possible?

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

In her previous post, Dr. Gwendy Reyes-Illg introduced us to her work with the story of Margot. Here she talks about reintroductions from Afican sanctuaries back into the wild, and some information on how we can help. The sad reality is that many of these chimpanzees simply cannot be reintroduced to the wild because they have suffered too much trauma. No captive chimpanzee in the US has been successfully integrated into African forests—it is nothing like what they are used to. The same can be said for any chimpanzee who begins life in captivity, even if they live in Africa.

Have you witnessed apes experience successful reintroduction and rehabilitation?

Each chimpanzee is a unique individual, and their responses to trauma vary widely. Chimpanzees who were only in captivity for a short while before they were rescued are very different from those who were subjected to years of life as a “pet.” The former seem to have an easier time integrating with the other chimpanzees once in a sanctuary, while the latter are sometimes abnormally bonded to humans and may have a harder time finding their place in the group. Despite their gradual psychological recovery, they may still exhibit stereotypical behaviors, such as rocking or over-grooming.

Sanctuary life is much better than being in the hands of poachers or “owners.” Solitary confinement, the norm for most illegally-held primates, is one of the most miserable situations in which a social animal can find herself. In sanctuaries, primates have others of their own kind with whom to bond and interact. They are given a variety of healthy foods and fresh water. Oftentimes, they also form close relationships with caring staff members.

The sanctuaries I have volunteered for and visited in Africa differ greatly in the conditions in which the apes live. Some sanctuaries provide large tracts of forest where the apes can explore, play, build nests, etc. They are rarely seen during the day, coming near the cages only for feeding time. Other sanctuaries are much smaller, and caregivers must enrich the smaller area they have available to keep the primates stimulated and prevent boredom. Because most African sanctuaries rely on solar power for their electric fences, the apes must come inside at night so they will not escape when the power to the fence gets too low. Aggression can be a problem, especially in close inside quarters.

I have always been enamored with the idea of reintroducing chimpanzees to the wild. In theory, it seems to be one way to right all the wrongs our species has inflicted on these creatures. Reintroduction is liberation, emancipation. Unfortunately, the reality of chimpanzee reintroduction is much more muddled, both logistically and ethically.

The African sanctuaries I have worked closely with are still struggling to find a suitable release site—an area where reintroduced chimpanzees could find the resources they need to survive, without being killed by hunters, or by a well-established group of wild chimpanzees. This is a common challenge for sanctuaries hoping to reintroduce apes to the wild. In addition, apes who have been in captivity for any length of time may harbor infectious diseases that could endanger wild populations.

The actual “release” is just the beginning—not the end—of a life-long commitment to the animals: reintroduced apes must be fitted with tracking devices and constantly monitored for the rest of their lives. This is because they are inevitably habituated to people and areas uninhabited by people are almost impossible to find; to prevent human-ape conflict, crop-raiding, etc., releasers must ensure the reintroduced animals are not moving toward villages or farmland.

A fairly high percentage of chimpanzees die shortly after they are released, even with all the measures in place to prevent this. And after many years in a sanctuary environment, reintroduction may be a stress- and distress-causing event, at least initially, for the individuals involved. Finally, the financial costs of reintroduction project can be very high, and some might argue that limited resources would be better spent on individuals remaining in sanctuaries and on efforts to protect animals still in the wild, for example, by protecting forests or educating people.

Still, reintroduction may be the right option in certain situations. Successfully released apes have many options and freedoms not available to those in sanctuaries. They can roam where they choose, and are free to spend time with individuals they prefer and avoid those they don’t get along with. They do not have to depend on people for food, water, and other necessities. Chimpanzees reintroduced to the wild avoid the sometimes unpleasant husbandry and medical procedures that are an almost universal part of sanctuary chimpanzee life.

Another freedom that comes with reintroduction is the freedom to reproduce and raise offspring. Contraception is used in most sanctuaries because they do not wish to subject more animals to a life of captivity; in addition, every “vacancy” occupied by captive-born animal is not available for one who needs to be rescued. Once in the wild, reproduction not only enriches the lives of the mother and other group members, it also pulls the species a little further away from extinction in the wild—predicted by some to occur for chimpanzees in as little 15 years.

Finally, because reintroduction projects capture the hearts and imagination of many people, they can help draw attention of the plight of apes in general. Local people living in a proposed reintroduction site are “sensitized” to the idea of protecting the apes being released and this may have a ripple effect that gradually helps foster positive attitudes in the larger population.

What can we do to help?

Limited resources are one of the biggest challenges for sanctuaries, especially those in developing countries. People who want to help can donate equipment, supplies, time or money to help meet sanctuaries’ daily needs and help expand education and outreach programs. Many sanctuaries accept volunteers for extended periods, even individuals who have never worked with primates before. Since my work has a veterinary focus, I approach distributors, manufacturers, and practitioners in the hopes that they will donate medications, equipment (such as anesthesia monitors, ultrasound machines, and fracture repair instruments), and medical supplies to bring to the sanctuaries where I work.

In addition, it is important to examine how we might unintentionally be contributing to the tragedy of orphaned chimpanzees. When considering buying wood products, it may be worth looking into the source; logging companies seeking wood for Western markets contribute to the problem both by cutting roads into remote, formerly inaccessible areas of forest and by transporting illegal bushmeat out of the forest. In addition, they sometimes do not provide enough food to their workers, leading some individuals to resort to hunting primates and other wild species.

Finally, taking action on issues that harm primates in the U.S., such as medical research and use in the entertainment and pet industries, has a ripple effect for chimpanzees, gorillas and other primates still in their native regions. These campaigns always need supporters and even people with limited time to contribute can help raise the profile and the moral status of primates in our society.

These pictures were taken at three of the sanctuaries Gwendy has worked for: Limbe Wildlife Centre (in Cameroon), In Defense of Animals—Africa’s Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center (in Cameroon), and the Jane Goodall Institute South Africa (Chimp Eden).

gorillas in africa sanctuary

chimps in africa sanctuary4

chimps in africa sanctuary3

mandrill in africa sanctuary

More ways to follow us

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

If you are on Facebook, you’ve probably seen a few pictures posted from our new Instagram account. If you have Instagram, please start following us @chimpsanctuary! Today, I posted this picture, with the caption “Guess who?” And I’d like to pose that question to our blog readers as well. So, go ahead and guess! After you figure it out, I will post more pictures of that chimp later today!

UPDATE: It’s Burrito :) Scroll down to see his pretty cute face.


If you aren’t on Facebook or Instagram, but you regularly read the blog, you might have noticed on the right hand sidebar that there’s a new link to a page called News on Apes. This is simply a feed of news stories (with links to the original articles) all in one place for any issue apes are facing in the news. If something noteworthy comes out on chimps in entertainment or biomedical research, or conservation issues for wild gorillas, chimps, and orangutans—we will post it there. Subscribe to get an email notification any time we post a link to a new article, to stay updated on what is going on with apes around the world.



Why are orangutans endangered in the wild?

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

This guest blog is by Rich Zimmerman, Executive Director of Orangutan Outreach. Rich helped facilitate getting CSNW an iPad as part of their Apps for Apes program! He is our first guest blogger to tell us information about our red ape cousins in Asia. Rich’s experience is in helping raise awareness and funds for the projects in the field. He has accompanied a few rescue missions in Borneo but his work is mainly in New York and online—advocating on behalf of orangutans, promoting the cause and communicating the critical need to help them before it’s too late.

What inspired you to work with orangutans?

I’ve loved orangutans since I was a child. I went in a different direction professionally and it was only later in life—when I realized just how perilously close the orangutans were to extinction in the wild—that I decided I needed to do something to help them. After traveling to Indonesia and seeing the utter devastation to their forests and the rescue center cages full of hundreds of orphaned and displaced orangutans staring out with such sadness and desperation in their eyes, I decided to dedicate my life to helping them. I created Orangutan Outreach in 2007 as a way to raise awareness of the crisis facing wild orangutans and to raise funds for the rescue projects in Borneo and Sumatra.

Can you tell us a brief story about an individual orangutan that was personally affected by human encroachment?

Every orangutan in every rescue center has been affected by human encroachment. Whenever there is a conflict, the human always wins. Orangutans—and elephants, rhinos, tigers, monkey, you name it—always fall victim to the constant expansion of human settlement and the destruction of their habitat by logging, palm oil, and mining companies. Every baby in a rescue center was torn off his or her dying mother. These innocent babies are traumatized—just as any human baby would be if pulled from its mother. And for each infant confiscated and brought to a rehabilitation center, it’s estimated that anywhere from four to nine did not survive. It’s horrific what is being done to these creatures… for no fault of their own they are being wiped out of existence by humans.

Let me tell you two quick stories. The first is Rickina, who was rescued by our partners International Animal Rescue (IAR) when she was less than a year old. When they confiscated her she has a gaping machete wound in her skull—obviously received when the poachers killer her mother. The wound was fresh. Rickina is now doing really well—thanks to the expert care of the team at IAR Ketapang. She is quite famous online—with more than 350,000 views of her video on YouTube.

Baby Orangutan Rickina is being cared for at IAR Ketapang (and can be adopted!). Photo © International Animal Rescue.

Another amazing story is Gober, a blind, older female orangutan being cared for by our partners Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP). When she was caught eating fruit in the garden of a local villager she was going to be killed. Instead she was rescued and brought to the SOCP quarantine center. She had cataracts and could barely see. She was housed in a cage next to a younger male orangutan (named Leuser) who had been shot with a pellet gun more than a hundred times by local villagers. He was totally blind and the fact that he’d even survived is testament to the phenomenal will to live of orangutans. Well, orangutans never cease to amaze… nine months later Gober gave birth to beautiful twins, Ganteng and Ginting. Twins are extremely rare among orangutans—which makes sense given the fact that in the wild they spend their lives high up in the treetops. Imagine trying to move around in the canopy carrying two babies! Gober had successful cataract surgery and her sight has been partially restored. Hopefully she and the twins will be released back into the wild later this year!

Gober & the Twins are being cared for by SOCP (and can be adopted!) Photo © Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme.

Why are orangutans endangered in the wild?

The expansionary activities of the timber, mining and palm oil industries have led to a catastrophic decrease in wild orangutan populations. Palm oil has been the main contributor to the orangutan genocide in the last decade. Around 90% of the global supply of palm oil comes from Indonesia & Malaysia and this has come at a tremendous cost for biodiversity. Indonesian forests are being burned to the ground—releasing so much carbon into the atmosphere that Indonesia now ranks only behind China and US in carbon emissions—and it is barely industrialized. The UNEP estimates that the forests of Indonesia are being cleared at a rate of six football fields per minute, every minute of every day.

The palm oil industry is guilty of truly heinous ecological atrocities. The forests of Borneo and Sumatra are the only place where these gentle, intelligent creatures live, and the cultivation of palm oil has directly led to the brutal deaths of thousands of individuals as the industry has expanded into previously undisturbed areas of rainforest at an alarming rate.

When the forest is cleared, adult orangutans are killed on sight. These peaceful, sentient beings who share approximately 97% of our DNA are shot, macheted, beaten, burned, mutilated, tortured and often eaten. Babies are literally torn off their dying mothers so they can be sold on the black market as illegal pets to wealthy families who see them as status symbols of their own power and prestige. This has been documented time and again.

Surveying deforestation in West Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). Photo © Orangutan Outreach

Have you seen any recovery of wild orphaned orangutans (e.g. is reintroduction possible)?

Reintroduction is very possible! Over the last year and a half, our partners at BOS have released more than 100 rehabilitated orangutans into a safe and secure forest deep in the heart of Borneo—far away from bulldozers and oil palm companies. And the population is flourishing! While there has been one death reported there have been multiple births recorded by the post-release monitoring team. The cycle of life continues in the forest for the world’s first re-created orangutan population. It takes roughly 250-300 individuals to create a stable population so there are many releases to go before the forest has reached carrying capacity according to strict IUCN guidelines. What BOS needs now is to find more forests to release more orangutans. There are still around 600 orangutans being cared for at the Nyaru Menteng Facility. They also have orangutans in East Kalimantan who are gradually being released into a separate forest. IAR is doing the same in West Kalimantan. They’ve been able to release orangutans from their excellent new facility in Ketapang. SOCP has a successful release program in Northern Sumatra. All these projects and programs are ongoing—and are only possible due to the generosity of donors.

BOS Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Release Photo © Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation.


Friday, January 24th, 2014

We often mention on the blog the changes that we observe in the chimpanzees and how we’ve seen them grow over the past five and a half years. There’s no doubt that they are still coming into their own, after living the majority of their lives in lab cages and having no control over their choices and no ability to predict what could happen next.

One of the tragic things about captivity is that the chimps are entirely dependent on us caregivers—we provide food, blankets, enrichment, and we shift the doors between their enclosures. For this reason, it is very important to have a routine so that the chimpanzees can have expectations, and can make decisions based on what they know will happen next. This is what is truly the epitome of being in a sanctuary.

Through these choices, we really see the chimpanzees develop their idiosyncratic likes and dislikes, and we see them grow and change over time. Foxie used to only want to play with trolls, and then some time ago she expanded to nurturing Dora dolls (though she still loves trolls). Jamie has a extreme love for boots, but recently it’s been more fashion boots that she prefers over cowgirl boots (her old favorite). Missy loves socks and slinkys, Burrito loves to have wooden toys to bite on, Annie loves to rub water on her face, Jody likes edible flowers and soapy bubbles, and Negra likes peanuts and nesting.

Having choices has allowed the chimps to relax, enjoy the sunshine, friends, good food, and space to run—and that has made them so much healthier and stronger than they ever were in the lab. See for yourself, check out the before and after photos of each of the chimps on their story pages here.

Although we see so many wonderful changes in the chimpanzees due to all the choice they have now, there are some things that never change. I was looking back through some old blog posts from this time in 2008, before the chimpanzees arrived. Diana’s first impressions of the chimps were spot-on and still six years later, they enjoy the same things she predicted they would when they came to CSNW. She talked about Jamie and choices, Negra and nesting, and Missy and Annie’s close friendship and their desire to play, play, play. These are things that the chimpanzees love to do everyday, but unlike in the lab, they are able to fully appreciate and express their preferences.

Today, the enrichment theme was “grooming day.” Jamie had lots of enrichment to choose from. Boots, scarves, emery boards, scrub brushes, trolls, pillows, blankets, paper, and even a toothbrush. Out of all of that, she chose to make a big nest out of a tube of exam table paper. (Thanks, Carol!)

Negra cuddled in a giant nest:


Missy and Annie:


And just for fun, Missy’s enrichment item of choice on grooming day:


I so look forward to the changes that are to come and see how the Cle Elum Seven will continue to flourish in sanctuary , but I know I can still count on some stability in the foundation of what they each love, and will continue to enjoy more and more for the rest of their lives.


Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

This post is by a new guest blogger, Gwendy Reyes-Illg. She is an emergency veterinarian in Loveland, Colorado and serves on the Leadership Council of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. She has visited and volunteered her services to several primate sanctuaries in the United States and Africa. Currently Dr. Reyes-Illg is pursuing a master’s degree in Animal and Environmental Ethics at Colorado State University. In a few years, she plans to relocate permanently to Africa to help primate sanctuaries and their surrounding communities. We asked her a few questions about her work—the first of which are answered here, and the rest will be in a follow-up post soon. WARNING: one possibly disturbing image is included in this entry as a link in the text.

How long have you been working in the field, and how did you get started there? What do you find most rewarding about working with chimpanzees and gorillas?

I’ve been working with apes for the past 13 years. As a college student, I took a semester off to intern at the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, FL, a sanctuary for chimpanzees and orangutans rescued or retired from the entertainment and pets trades. I have loved animals and advocated for them for as long as I can remember—by age 10, I was an ethical vegetarian—so my heart was already set on spending my life working with and for animals.

A documentary about Jane Goodall, along with the book The Great Ape Project, inspired me to focus on apes. Fascinating creatures in their own right, apes also serve as a natural “bridge” for extending moral consideration beyond our own species. In veterinary school, I always tried to imagine how I could adapt what I was learning to primate sanctuaries, especially those in remote areas with limited resources.

Now, as a veterinarian, what is most rewarding for me is the moments of connection that I have with individual primates. After an anesthetic procedure, I often sit with the patient while he or she wakes up to make sure they are recovering well. This is a quiet time where they are away from their group. Even chimpanzees who are normally pretty shy with humans will come out of their shell a bit, and reach out a hand to be held. Given how strong and intimidating chimpanzees can be when emotionally aroused, I am always amazed at the gentleness with which many of them groom and touch.

Tell us about an individual ape personally affected by human encroachment, and how you were involved in their recovery.

Unlike most apes in North American sanctuaries, almost all the chimpanzees and gorillas in African sanctuaries were born in the wild. They were taken from the forest when the mothers they were clinging to were killed so their bodies could be sold as “bushmeat.” Though ape meat is illegal, it can be sold at a high price because, for some, consuming it is a status symbol. Even some restaurants in Europe and North America have been caught serving ape meat.

Infants’ small size means that they fetch a higher price when sold alive, as “pets” or tourist attractions. After the horrors of being torn from their mothers, many infants die of their wounds, neglect, or illnesses they contract from their captors. The survivors are often tied by the waist or chained by the neck in private homes or hotels. The rare lucky survivors wind up in one of dozens of sanctuaries throughout Africa after being confiscated by authorities or surrendered by people who have purchased them.

Margot, a four-year-old “little girl,” is one chimpanzee I got to know especially well during my last time in Africa. She was confiscated from a poacher in 2011 and arrived at the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center with several shotgun wounds to her face—probably from the same gun that killed her mother. As a result, she had a broken jaw, as well as a hole in the roof of her mouth (palate) that connected to her nose. While most of her wounds healed soon after her arrival, the hole in her palate proved very difficult to surgically repair. Both a human surgeon and a veterinarian attempted to close the hole, but two surgeries later, it was still there, and Margot was frequently developing respiratory infections from aspiration.

margot surgery

Before my last volunteer trip, the sanctuary director and I consulted with several maxillofacial surgeons to develop a new surgical plan and get the special supplies I would need for what we hoped would be Margot’s final surgery. Margot was gently anesthetized and carefully monitored and tended to by Nicholas, the Cameroonian veterinary technician, while I performed the surgery. Afterward, she had to eat an all liquid diet and take several different medications to prevent pain and infection. We were worried Margot or one of the other chimpanzees in her group might pull out the stitches before the repair had healed so, instead of going out into the forest everyday with the others, Margot had to stay inside with a caregiver for two weeks. She was not happy about this!

Despite the disruption of her routine and missing her chimpanzee friends, Margot was a very good patient. Every day or two, I visited her, played for a bit and tried to get a peek at how the repair was holding up. Margot was so gentle and tolerant, even with everything she was going through—and all she had survived in her short life. At last check, it looks like the surgery has been a success! The hole was finally closed. Margot will have another check-up soon, to make sure everything is continuing to heal well.

Take Action Tuesday: Chance in Wolf of Wall Street

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

EOA take action tuesday

This action alert went out earlier today. Not on the mailing list? Sign up for Eyes on Apes Take Action list today to get these alerts straight to your inbox!

In the upcoming movie Wolf of Wall Street, Leonardo DiCaprio is seen holding an infant chimpanzee, Chance. It is especially disappointing because Mr. DiCaprio is known for his passion for animal conservation—most recently he supported conservation efforts to save tigers in Nepal.

Animal advocacy groups have contacted Mr. DiCaprio and the movie producers, however our efforts to reach out have not resulted in Chance’s scenes getting removed from the movie. Now it is time for the public to speak up!


Chance was once a pet, and his previous owners discarded him to a pseudo-sanctuary called the Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary. The animal attraction claims to be a reserve for animals, but they regularly exploit their residents for entertainment purposes. In fact, Chance’s owners (the Rosaire-Zoppe family) are the only remaining trainers that continue to use chimpanzees in circuses. No respectable reserve or animal sanctuary would lease out their animals for media productions such as this movie.

Even if the AHA was present for filming, they have no authority over Chance’s treatment off-set, making the “no animals were harmed” disclaimer misleading.

Portraying chimpanzees as cute and cuddly attractions seriously misinforms the public on the true nature of these beings and perpetuates the pet and entertainment industries. Studies have shown that showing chimpanzees alongside humans in film and TV mask their endangered status, and these scenes hurt conservation efforts.

Despite hearing these facts from advocacy groups, the Wolf of Wall Street producers have not removed Chance’s scenes from the movie, which will be released on December 25. We encourage you to please post on the movie’s poster on their Facebook page and Twitter to let them know that because of the issues with Chance’s scenes you will not be going to see the movie, and you will tell all your friends to boycott it with you.

Sample Facebook Post:

I’m boycotting Wolf of Wall Street because of the chimpanzee scenes! Even Hollywood knows that abuse occurs when animals are used in movies ( Chimpanzees don’t belong in movies unless they are CGI. Chimpanzees are an endangered species and showing them as cute and cuddly props hurts conservation efforts and perpetuates the pet trade.

Sample Tweets:

Pls RT! Join @EyesOnApes and tell @LeoDiCaprio chimps should not be in movies & you won’t see @TheWolfofWallSt!

RT! @LeoDiCaprio I will boycott @TheWolfofWallSt because of Chance’s scenes. Chimps do not belong in movies!

Don’t support animal abuse. Refuse to see @LeoDiCaprio in @TheWolfofWallSt and tell all your friends. Pls RT!

The final thing you can do to help Chance is to spread the word! Please share this alert on social media and encourage your friends to boycott the movie with you.

#GivingTuesday – this is what it’s all about

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Hopefully you are subscribed to our e-news (if not, subscribe here), which means that you received the Giving Tuesday message today with the Foxie Inspires Us video in your inbox early this morning.

The video is below, along with some more great photos of Foxie. We would really appreciate your help in spreading Foxie’s story by sharing the video via Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest pages on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Linked In, and by emailing it to your friends. Foxie appreciates your love!

More Foxie photos:





Foxie with a mirror

web foxie blowing soap bubble FR IMG_1377

web Foxie throw blue troll doll in air about to catch playroom IMG_0100

web Foxie Burrito play playface cute playroom PR IMG_4558

web Foxie lie on back platform sock troll enrichment look at camera greenhouse OA IMG_2616