Archive for the ‘Advocacy’ Category

Chimpanzees in Circuses

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

An eight-year-old chimpanzee named Chance has been in the news lately. Chance is owned by the Rosaire family and has been used in entertainment for his entire life. He has appeared in commercials, television shows and movies, including The Wolf of Wall Street.

The reason Chance and the Rosaires have been in the news recently is due to this footage that PETA obtained of Chance performing with a leash around his neck.

Thirty years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for chimpanzees to appear in circuses and roadside zoo performances. In fact, Jamie, Burrito, and possibly Jody were all used as performers before their years as biomedical research subjects. They lived with trainers and were made to perform in order to entertain people.

Thankfully, we have learned a lot about the nature of chimpanzees over the years and, as a society, we’ve begun to question the appropriateness of using intelligent, social animals in this way. More and more people agree that whales belong in the ocean, not in small aquariums, that elephants shouldn’t be used as props for people to sit on, and that chimpanzees should not be raised by humans and taught to perform tricks just to amuse us.

The Rosaire family has been in the circus business for multiple generations, so it’s understandable that they are stubbornly holding on to their way of life and their views of exotic animals that many, if not most, people have reconsidered.

They argue that they are providing sanctuary for the animals in their care, and they even have legal nonprofit status and the word “sanctuary” in their name Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary.

Certainly, anyone who is familiar with true sanctuaries would immediately realize that putting a chimpanzee on a leash and having people pay to view him perform an act is a circus, not a charitable sanctuary, and that those entities have very different missions. But for those not as familiar, I’m not surprised that the Rosaires have their defenders.

It may be true that the Rosaires feel love for the animals in their care, but that doesn’t mean the animals are being afforded the life that they should or could have in an accredited sanctuary.

For more information on the Rosaires, see this page, and for how to distinguish between roadside zoos and sanctuaries, read this from CSNW and this from the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance and share with others.

When you see chimpanzees on television, in movies, or pictured on greeting cards, stop to consider what kind of a life that chimpanzee has. Exotic animal circuses survive only because people continue to pay to see animal performances. There are fewer and fewer chimpanzees being used in entertainment because fewer and fewer people think that they should be used in this way.

We hope the chimpanzees who remain in the entertainment business in the U.S. will be able to experience a different way of life someday, like Jamie, Burrito, and Jody, where the focus is on providing them with hundreds of choices that allow them to be who they are as chimpanzees and where their best interests are the top priority.





A wadge

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

In the wild, chimpanzees will store chewed up fibrous materials (called a wadge) in their bottom lips. This way they can suck every last bit of juice out of tough, chewy plants. Just like their free-living counterparts, the Cle Elum 7 wadge fibrous things such as alfalfa cubes, pine tree needles, cattail leaves and other edible plants. They seem to enjoy eating their dry primate chow this way, stuffing their lips full and adding water so they can slowly savor the flavor.

Jody is fond of all things fibrous, including pineapple peel, seen here:

Is it Thanksgiving yet?

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

Really, I think I can speak for us all when I say we feel as though it’s Thanksgiving every day here at the sanctuary. We are thankful to our bones for you, all of whom make the sanctuary and the chimpanzees’ lives here possible. We are thankful for wide open spaces with unobstructed views seen through chimpanzee eyes, the sound of chimpanzee feet racing through grass and the sound of human feet running alongside them, chimpanzee play faces and laughter, chimpanzee food grunts and squeaks, freckles, tiny toes, Annie-bird noises, blanket nests the size of small mountains, upside down chimps, and happy and healthy chimps whose lives grow bigger every day both inside and out, and well, more things than we could possibly say.

We are grateful every single day for our chimpanzee family, one of which you are a part of, one of which wouldn’t exist without you. From our hearts, thank you for helping us care for Annie, Missy, Jody, Foxie, Burrito, Jamie and Negra. Seven very special people whose lives are now filled with hope, love, home and family. And who fill our hearts full to bursting with love for them.

And from Burrito’s heart, is that Field Roast ready yet??! And pumpkin pancakes and green beans and sparkling cider and…




Happy Thanksgiving Eve everyone! Be sure to check in tomorrow for the chimps’ big celebration!


From blue cement floors below, to blue skies above

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

Just over eight years ago, the Cle Elum 7 were living in the windowless basement of the Buckshire Corporation in Pennsylvania. Their entire world consisted of four attached 6×6 cages.

Here’s a little perspective on just exactly what that meant for the chimpanzees:

Take a moment and imagine only being able to climb as high as that cage ceiling or walk as far as the beginning of one wall to the end of the other. It’s truly inconceivable.

A huge part of sanctuary means providing a new multidimensional expansive world for the chimpanzees to enjoy.

When Missy climbed to to the tallest structure on Young’s Hill this morning, she was around 20 feet in the air with an unimpeded view of a lush green valley and rolling mountains. The sun could warm her back and the breeze could tickle her skin. She had 2 acres of grassy hill to run and play on, with several comfortable indoor areas to nap and groom in.







What a difference 8 years can make.

Tiny chimp, big world

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

We tend to equate mothers with maternity. But whether or not we find ourselves in the position of mothering children, I believe we are all mothers in some form, at some point. Maybe it’s mothering our animal friends, loved ones and family, ourselves, our plants, or even a creative project we’ve put our hearts into. It’s that innate sense we have to nurture, protect and care for someone or something we hold dear, or sometimes just a compassion and empathy that comes from witnessing a fellow being just trying to get through life the same as we are.

If you’re new to the blog or the chimps’ histories you may not be aware that Annie, Missy, Negra, Jody and Foxie were all used as “breeders” during their time in biomedical research. Each of them was forced to have child after child only to have their babies stolen from them shortly after birth, destined to a future as horrid as their parents. (To our knowledge Jamie has never had any children). You can learn more about the chimps’ histories on our Eyes on Apes page.

Foxie is mother to four children. Two daughters, Angie (who thankfully resides at Save the Chimps in Florida, and Kelsey (who resides at Alamogordo Primate Facility), and a rare set of twin sons, David and Steve (who are sadly both deceased now).

Foxie is rarely without at least one of her troll or Dora dolls and appears to have a tendency to carry two at a time. Maybe when Foxie chooses to carry two dolls at a time she can’t decide between favored dolls, perhaps two are the most she can comfortably carry, or it’s another reason I can’t possibly imagine. We can never say with certainty what the chimps are thinking, but I often wonder if it’s indicative of memories of her twins.

After breakfast yesterday the chimps headed out onto Young’s Hill and Foxie and her two Doras du jour headed off to explore on their own.





Walking along the perimeter with Jamie, as we got to the top of the hill I thought I spotted Foxie and the Doras high atop “Jamie’s Tower,” but she wasn’t immediately visible. Then reaching the other side of the structure, I could see her spying through the slats, enjoying her own world.



Gazing at her Dora dolls:


I stood watching Foxie, utterly mesmerized by how tiny she appeared against the backdrop of the stunning views surrounding her sanctuary home. Then for the first time that I’ve seen, Foxie began “phantom” nesting (nesting behavior in the absence of nesting material) with her dolls on the tower. Foxie doesn’t build nests as most chimps do, but we often see her (and sometimes Burrito) engaging in this behavior in a corner of the chimp house during which she claps and clasps her hands together while moving her arms up, across, and down, almost in a figure eight. Similar to movements chimps in the wild make as they bend in and fold branches around them when they create nests, as well as chimps in captivity who use blankets and other nesting material to build their nests. We don’t know a lot about this behavior, but as far as we know it’s only been observed in captive chimps and is not commonly seen.



We can’t know if any of the chimps would have been good mothers given their unnatural circumstances and the trauma they endured, but chances are had they not been deprived of the right to their natural lives, they would have been.





I’m not sure if Foxie was mothering her dolls or mothering herself through the comfort and joy they provide her, both, or neither. And it doesn’t matter. In whatever form it takes, Foxie is a good mother.


This tiny chimpanzee woman’s world has grown exponentially from what it was for the first 32 years of her life. But her heart and spirit can never be constrained by space.

This is for the activists

Saturday, September 17th, 2016

Last night I was going through some old documents and newspaper articles and reading about the history of chimpanzees being retired to sanctuaries, and, in particular, activists who worked to get chimpanzees out of Buckshire, where the seven chimpanzees living at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest came from.

I will share more details at a later time, but one thing that really struck me was the extremely dedicated people who worked for years to help chimpanzees who they had never even met.

Working at and for a sanctuary can be hard work, but the reward is constant. There is a direct connection between the care that goes into sanctuary work and witnessing happy chimpanzees benefit from your labor. Most people who work in sanctuaries are also advocates, but our priority, as it should be, is to provide the very best life possible for those we care for at the sanctuary.

People who work full-time as activists and animal advocates don’t often have this direct reward. Their work, which often involves endlessly writing complaints and submitting FOIA requests, or working to change legislation, can be arduous. They know that there is wrong being done, and they work to create better outcomes, but it often takes years to see an outcome; all too often nothing comes of their hard work. Then, when there is a happy ending, they move on to the next animal or animals who are suffering.

But their work is precisely what has made the sanctuary life for the Cle Elum Seven, and for other animals in sanctuaries, possible.

Today I would like to publicly thank them and let them know that in my head and heart I thank them each time I think of the Cle Elum Seven chimpanzees, which is pretty much all the time.


Negra foraging for lunch:

Negra foraging


Foxie with Dora and friend:

Foxie with dolls


Jamie and Burrito patrolling together:

Jamie with Burrito


Burrito finishing up the patrol around the hill:

Burrito in the grass


Annie and Missy at the top of Twister:

Annie and Missy top of Twister


Jody in profile:

Jody profile

Only the beginning

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

Today, the chimps watched from the greenhouse as heavy rainstorms passed through Cle Elum. Rain is a rare occurrence here in the summer and while it puts a damper on the chimps’ outdoor activities, they seemed to welcome its return as much as we did. They curled up next to one another in cozy nests, lulled by the cool, humid air and the steady drum of rain on the greenhouse roof.



It was a very different reaction than the one we witnessed eight years ago, when the rains finally returned to Central Washington after their usual summer hiatus. Then, the chimps were just settling into their new life here at the sanctuary after living for decades in a windowless basement. As the first drops fell, the chimps rushed to the windows and doors to investigate. When the drizzle turned into a steady rain, the chimps let out deafening alarm calls. Alarm calls? At rain? We were momentarily stumped, until we remembered that the Cle Elum Seven hadn’t seen rain in decades – or for some, in their entire lives.

Days like this remind me of how much things have changed over the last eight years. These seven chimps have completely transformed before our very eyes. And while we watched them recover and grow and eventually thrive in sanctuary, their counterparts still in labs were granted new protections, first by the NIH and then by the Fish and Wildlife Service, effectively ending the era of chimpanzee research both in the United States and around the world.

These changes happened far more rapidly than I ever would have imagined. But while we’ve finally nudged the lines of our circle of moral concern ever-so-slightly to include chimpanzees, we still haven’t let go of the mindset that allowed Annie, Burrito, Foxie, Jamie, Jody, Missy, and Negra to be locked away in the first place. That is, that when humans are concerned, the ends always justify the means. This was addressed in a powerful Op-Ed in the New York Times today by Dr. John Gluck, a former primate researcher and thoughtful advocate for our primate cousins. We had the pleasure of receiving a visit from John, along with the sanctuary’s good friend Dr. Hope Ferdowsian, earlier this summer. I urge you to read what he has to say, though I should warn you that the article includes two disturbing images.

When the rain subsided this afternoon, the chimps spilled back onto Young’s Hill. Jamie picked up where she left off, patrolling her territory, this time accompanied by Ellie the Elk. Missy ran and swung and climbed everything in sight. Others searched for food left over from the morning’s breakfast forage. And Negra, as you might have guessed, stayed tucked in her nest, dreaming of dinner. These chimps emerged from the darkness of their laboratory lives and found peace in sanctuary. They, and others like them, are now protected because people fought for them.

The 70,000 primates still in labs are counting on us to do the same for them.





Saturday, August 13th, 2016

In her book In the Shadow of Man, Jane Goodall wrote about a chimpanzee named Mike at Gombe who used a clever device to quickly rise in the hierarchy of his group.

Here’s an excerpt from her book, which I found on this webpage:

Mike’s rise to the number one or top-ranking position in the chimpanzee community was both interesting and spectacular. In 1963 Mike had ranked almost bottom in the adult male dominance hierarchy. He had been the last to gain access to bananas, and had been threatened and actually attacked by almost every other adult male. At one time he even had appeared almost bald from losing so many handfuls of hair during aggressive incidents with his fellow apes. One day at camp, all at once Mike calmly walked over to our tent and took hold of an empty kerosene can by the handle. Then he picked up a second can and, walking upright, returned to the place where he had been sitting. Armed with his two cans Mike stared toward the other males. After a few minutes he began to rock from side to side. At first the movement was almost imperceptible, but Hugo and I were watching him closely. Gradually, he rocked more vigorously, his hair slowly began to stand erect, and then, softly at first, he started a series of pant-hoots. As he called, Mike got to his feet and suddenly he was off, charging toward the group of males, hitting the two cans ahead of him. The cans, together with Mike’s crescendo of hooting, made the most appalling racket: no wonder the erstwhile peaceful males rushed out of the way. Mike and his cans vanished down a track, and after a few moments there was silence. Some of the males reassembled and resumed their interrupted grooming session, but the others stood around somewhat apprehensively. After a short interval that low-pitched hooting began again, followed almost immediately by the appearance of the two rackety cans with Mike close behind them. Straight for the other males, he charged, and once more they fled. This time, even before the group could reassemble, Mike set off again; but he made straight for Goliath – and even he hastened out of his way like all the others. Then Mike stopped and sat, all his hair on end, breathing hard. His eyes glared ahead and his lower lip was hanging slightly down so that the pink inside showed brightly and gave him a wild appearance.

Mike’s actions on that day allowed the other chimpanzees, including Goliath, the leader of the group, to see him as a force to be reckoned with – Mike’s use of the cans that made an unfamiliar and very loud, intimidating sound in his display was nothing short of brilliant.

Chimpanzees in captivity have access to many man-made objects that make impressive sounds, and they too demonstrate forethought in the objects that they use during displaying.

Today, when the chimpanzees were given access to Young’s Hill, their outdoor habitat, for their lunch forage, Burrito headed for the triangular structure that we call Negra’s cabin. The cabin has lexan panels that can be hit and kicked to cause a loud noise in the otherwise quiet of the hill.

I imagine it feels pretty good too:

Burrito banging on cabin

Burrito at cabin

Burrito banging on cabin


This one is blurry, but you can make out Burrito’s open mouth as he was ending his pant-hoot in a scream:

Burrito banging on cabin


The display was a little lost on the other chimps, who just went about their business – they’ve heard that one before.






MIssy on bridge


Jamie and Negra:

Jamie and Negra



Jody with carrots


I didn’t get a photo of Annie – she was very efficient with her foraging and quickly returned to the cooler environment of the greenhouse.


Humans have their own ways of “displaying,” but sometimes I wonder if it would be helpful if we periodically displayed in the same way that chimps do. Perhaps you can try it this weekend – find something that makes a lot of noise, bang or kick it like you mean it, and let out a tremendous yell. Maybe you won’t raise in the ranks of the hierarchy among your friends, but I imagine you’ll feel a sense of released tension afterwards.


Happy Anniversary, Chris and Victoria!

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

Today’s day of sanctuary was sponsored by Chris and Victoria Jensen as their anniversary gift to one another! Chris shared this message about today:

“My lovely wife Victoria and I have always loved animals. We currently have 2 Dachshunds, Sally and a rescue named Stitch. We decided to stop getting each other presents, and give to the causes we believe in. We really appreciate the work you do, giving the chimps back their lives must be very rewarding. The animals of the world need our help, we can’t help them all so we do what we can.”

Chris and Victoria, thank you so much for celebrating your special day by making a difference in the chimps’ lives! What an inspiring way to honor your lives together. Thank you for all you do for our fellow animals and we are so happy to celebrate with you! Happy Anniversary from all of us at Chimpanzee Sanctuary NW and we hope you, Sally and Stitch have a day filled with the love of family, comfort and home that you help provide the chimps with!

Best friends, Annie and Missy:

Missy and Annie with prickly lettuce

missy annie wrestle on beam

web Annie Missy wrestle play playface YH  IMG_4435

Missy chase Annie

Annie groom Missy in greenhouse

What’s in a Nest?

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

An intriguing article is making the rounds about a primatologist named Koichiro Zamma who has developed a bed, called the humankind evolution bed, that is based on how chimpanzees construct their own beds in the forests. Apparently he tried out a chimpanzee-constructed nest  while tracking chimpanzees in the wild and found it to be very comfortable, waking up quite refreshed after his night of nesting.

A prototype of his invention is currently on display at Kyoto University Museum in Japan. Articles say this about the bed: “The mattress features a depression in the centre to replicate the natural dip in a chimp’s treetop bed and has a raised periphery for the head, legs and arms. It is supported by a frame made from woven paper string for maximum breathability, and eight curved legs that are designed to allow the bed to rock almost imperceptibly.”

humankind evolution bed

Megumi Kaji of the Research Association of Sleep and Society takes a nap on the humankind evolution bed. Photograph: Koichiro Zamma


As we’ve written in the past, chimpanzees in captivity make similar constructions for their nests as their free-living counterparts, building up walls of material (blankets, straw, paper, etc), and laying in the middle.

Jody is a master nest-maker:


Missy makes a pretty mean nest too. This was one of my favorite photos from the early days of the sanctuary:

Missy in tire nest

In fact, these two were featured in this tutorial-style blog post about how to nest.

Here are some more photos of nesting from the Cle Elum Seven:

Jamie's paper nest

Missy constructed nest

Missy sleeping in a big nest

Negra nesting


I have to admit that I wonder if perhaps Zamma’s restful night of sleep was due to being particularly exhausted after a day of following chimpanzees around the forest, but I remain intrigued.

What do you think – are chimpanzees on to something that we should be paying attention to? Should we ditch our flat mattresses? Would you want a humankind evolution bed?