Posts Tagged ‘animal rights’

Autonomy and Confidence

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

Last month I wrote about “missing chimpanzee” Foxie, who has been doing a lot of solo exploring on the hill this summer. In May, Anna shared that Negra had been venturing out further on Young’s Hill than she had ever been before.

Well, we can add Burrito to this growing list of chimpanzees who have suddenly become more confident in the outdoor habitat.

As I was finishing up a walk with Jamie this afternoon, I came around to the front of the building and noticed the figure of a chimpanzee way up on the towers at the top of the hill. To my surprise, it was Burrito who was up there, walking across the shaky bridge, all by himself. I should mention that there was no food forage involved, so his motivation wasn’t tied to finding a snack.

I rushed up to the observation deck and got a few photos as he climbed down from the lookout and slowly walked back toward the greenhouse:




As I took these photos, I was grinning like a fool, and I called down to Burrito to tell him how great I think he is.

Like humans, chimpanzees experience varying degrees of anxiety and fear. In some ways, Burrito shows more anxiety than some of the other chimpanzees. It took him a long time to get comfortable in the greenhouse when it was first completed in 2010, even when the ladies were spending the majority of their time out there (read this blog post from Elizabeth from March 2010 and watch the video of Burrito finally making a breakthrough and spending some time in the greenhouse).

And now, this summer, five years after the chimpanzees were given the 2-acre outdoor habitat that we call Young’s Hill, they are still continuing to gradually embrace and explore their autonomy.

I wonder what they will be doing five years from now.


Missy’s 2nd Chance & Those Left Behind

Friday, September 30th, 2016

This year for Great Apes Giving Day, I decided to highlight Missy’s story. If you are new to Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest or haven’t been following every single blog post, you may have missed the story of how Missy almost didn’t make it to her sanctuary home. Take a minute to read this story on our Great Apes Giving Day page here.


support Missy


There’s another story that we don’t tell very often.

The Cle Elum Seven should have been the Cle Elum Eight. There was an eighth chimpanzee living at Buckshire with Missy, Burrito, Negra, Jody, Annie, Foxie, and Jamie who died two years before the Cle Elum Seven came to Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest. He was a male chimpanzee and we believe his name was Ceaser.

I never met him, but I think about him, and what he represents, all of the time.

It is such an amazing time in history right now with the end of biomedical testing on chimpanzees in the United States. And it’s a frustrating time because there are hundreds of chimpanzees who are waiting for their opportunity to live out the rest of their lives in a sanctuary home where the only mission is to provide them with the best care possible.

And I know there will be chimpanzees like Ceaser who won’t have this chance because they will die before they are released from their laboratory life.

It’s a fact that not all laboratories are like Buckshire, where the Cle Elum Seven lived. Most modern laboratories holding chimpanzees have some sort of outdoor space, even if it’s a small concrete fenced in area, and most chimpanzees living in laboratories now live with other chimpanzees rather than in single cages.

I would guess that the majority of people who are directly caring for chimpanzees in laboratories really care for, and even love, the chimps. This may seem strange to those who have never met someone who works in a laboratory as a caregiver, but I have met many people who have held those positions in their past or still do now. Sometimes they didn’t really know what they were getting into, and they are awakened to the injustices of using chimpanzees in biomedical testing after they came to know the chimps in labs first-hand. Often they stay in those positions because they want to make a difference in the day-to-day lives of those under their care.

Philosophically, though, laboratories and accredited sanctuaries are worlds apart. How you view a person or an animal affects how they are cared for. For accredited sanctuaries, the one and only aim is to provide the chimpanzees with a good home full of choices and social interactions and the space to figure out who they are. For laboratories, even if they are not actively using the chimpanzees in testing, the chimps are valued and viewed in terms of their contribution (for which they did not give their consent) to humans and their research questions.

This is a fundamental difference; and it’s the reason why it pains me to think about the chimpanzees, like Ceaser, who will die in laboratories even though the research has ended.

And then I think about Missy, who almost didn’t have the last eight years of her life at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest.




Every day is about making sure that the chimpanzees in our care fully experience a life that’s all about them. It’s our moral obligation to try to give back to them at least some of what we, as a society, have taken. And we want to be able to do this for other chimpanzees coming out of laboratories.

This is why fundraising days like Great Apes Giving Day mean so much to us, and to other sanctuaries and rescue centers.

Please consider making a donation to Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, learn about all of the organizations participating in this global day of giving for great apes, and watch this Tuesday (October 4th) when the competition for the prize money heats up.

In the end, the chimpanzees and other great apes that you give your donation towards are the big winners.

missy sepia

An Imperfect Life

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

In Negra’s alternate life – the one she should have had – she was born in the wilds of Africa, enjoyed a long, lazy childhood by her mother’s side, spent her days traveling with her group, climbing trees, and playing with friends, and grew up to have and raise her own babies and grandbabies.

In Negra’s actual life, she was born in the wilds of Africa, captured as an infant – probably after watching her family shot to make her capture possible – and shipped to the United States to be used as a research subject. She spent her days alone in metal cages no larger than a bathroom stall and experienced the world through filters of boredom, fear, pain, and loneliness. She had three babies in a five year span, all of whom were taken away from her within days or hours of birth, never to be seen or touched again.

Negra was about 35 years old when she stepped out of her last lab cage and into her new home at the sanctuary. That was a little over eight years ago. I sometimes wonder if there is some equation to represent the value of sanctuary to Negra and the others. Does one day in sanctuary cancel out one day in the lab? We can only hope.

Negra shouldn’t be here. She deserved to be wild and free. But her lot in life was determined by forces out of her hands, and out of ours. All we can do, and what we must do, is infuse her imperfect life with as much love and warmth and joy and comfort (and blankets and peanuts and sunshine) as we can, and then root for her as she steps toward recovery.





Annie Bird’s Birthday

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

Today we celebrate Beautiful Annie’s birthday. For the breakfast party in the greenhouse, we chose to have a bird theme because of the bird noises that she, uniquely, makes when she is relaxing.

owl pinata


The theme turned tropical with coconut, watermelon (that’s tropical, right?), pineapple, and fruit smoothie. Plus some primate chow, which Annie is fond of:

coconut troll


Also included were headbands (on the decorative slinky below) because of Annie’s sense of fashion.



Her friend Francoise even sent a book from Canada for us to interact with Annie (I did, later in the day, but didn’t get any photos – we’ll continue to have fun with this book, I can tell – Foxie and Jamie were very interested in it too!)

bird book


Later in the day, for the lunch forage, we had some of Annie’s favorite foods: green onions, leeks, cattails, and romaine lettuce. And we included some roses from the garden, mini-peppers, and more primate chow.

food tray

treat rock


Let’s get down to the chimp pics. You decide if Annie enjoyed our efforts:

Annie with chow

Annie with coconut

Annie coconut lip


annie with green onion

annie with green onion

Annie with lettuce 2

Annie with lettuce 3

annie with lettuce 1

annie in grass 2

Annie in grass

annie checking in treat rock


Of course the other chimpanzees appreciated Annie’s celebration too.

Burrito on a mission to find more food:

Burrito foraging


The coconut was a special treat:

hand holding coconut



Foxie with coconut



Missy coconut



Negra with coconut



Jody with coconut


But there were plenty of other treats to enjoy throughout the day:


Negra foraging:

negra sit in grass


Jody with leeks:

jody leek


Missy with a mouthful of chow:

missy in the grass


Jamie’s hand getting the plate of food from under the tub:

Jamie's hand getting plate



Jamie with a leek and cattail:

jamie leek

jamie cattail


The day ended with more treats – baked sweet potatoes and beets:

Erin serving

Annie eating beets


Annie thanks everyone for making her 42nd birthday a day of celebrating her favorite things and honoring how much we love her!



A Moment of Peace

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

Negra is not normally a “greet the morning with gusto” kind of a person. Like myself, she is more of a, “can I please have just 10 (make that 20) more minutes  of quiet before getting out of bed” kind of a person.

In the summer months, she changes her morning routine, though. Often before the humans arrive in the morning, Negra drags herself out of the nest she’s slept in on the catwalk or the loft of the playroom, and makes a new nest on top of the tall structure in the greenhouse.

Negra covering herself with a blanket


For some reason, most of the other chimps remain in the building, which allows Negra to have some glorious peace and quiet and alone time before the ruckus of the day begins.

This morning, she even had a little snack leftover from the night enrichment the previous evening.

Negra holding pinecone


Being able to witness moments like this is what makes my heart burst out of my chest for the love I have for Negra and the gratefulness I feel for everyone who shares this love.











Maybe we could just have 10 more minutes?

Negra covering herself with a blanket


One of each, please

Saturday, July 16th, 2016

Jody wins today’s lunch forage

Jody carrying cattail

Farmer Jo


Jody with forage haul


Jody close-up forage queen







Year Eight

Monday, June 20th, 2016

We hope that you have been enlightened, entertained, and inspired by the musings on years’ past this week. Today’s final post in the looking-back brings us from June 2015 to last week, the eighth anniversary of the arrival of the Cle Elum Seven to Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest.

The chimps’ eighth year began with a true test of our medical clinic. Burrito spent some time in the clinic twice after breaking a canine tooth. The first was an exam to determine the extent of his previously-diagnosed congestive heart failure and to assess the broken tooth, and the second was the tooth (make that teeth) extraction procedure.

Burrito tooth extraction

The chimpanzees are so fortunate to have such good human friends in their corner, who always go out of their way to ensure that they have the best care possible, and Burrito was in the hands of a large huge team of veterinary professionals who donated their time and skills to see Burrito through his procedures without a hitch.

Dare I say he’s even cuter with his missing teeth?



Dora the Explorer and friends were making frequent appearances with Foxie last year, and she seemed to show a particular fondness for the jaunty and clearly extra-adventurous France Dora:



and Dora’s fiery-haired friend Kate:

a flair for the dramatic


Troll dolls have not been replaced, though! They continued to be a favorite enrichment item for Foxie, with some of the other chimps seeming to adopt the trend:


Negra with a troll doll


Jody with a troll doll


Last summer, J.B. put together another of my favorite videos of the last eight years – the epic Troll Scarf Tug O War:


While the chimpanzees continue to make the most out of the ever-expanding life in sanctuary…





Jamie at the top of Twister


…the humans have been working hard “behind the scenes” to secure their future and work towards giving more chimpanzees a sanctuary life. The community of donors and volunteers came together and made it possible to purchase the sanctuary property that we had been leasing, acquire new land that tripled the total sanctuary footprint, and enter into an agreement to provide a home for chimpanzees coming out of biomedical research.

And, on a national scale, there was huge news as invasive biomedical research on chimpanzees came to a halt.

Just think about what the next eight years will bring!

Year One

Monday, June 13th, 2016

Today marks the eighth anniversary of the arrival of the Cle Elum Seven chimpanzees–Annie, Burrito, Foxie, Jamie, Jody, Missy, and Negra–to Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest and a celebration of Negra’s 43rd birthday.

It’s so hard for me to believe that eight years have already passed since the chimps’ arrival, and it’s even harder for me to believe that Negra is eight years older than she was when the truck full of chimpanzees pulled up the sanctuary driveway on June 13, 2008.

truck pulling up driveway with chimps

Negra in transport cage

Because this is such a nostalgic time for everyone who has been following the story of the chimpanzees at the sanctuary, and because so many people are relatively new followers, I thought it would be fun and informative to take this week to briefly chronicle some of the events of the last eight years, one year per day.

Of course I know you won’t want to miss the news of today’s big celebration, so we will be sharing that later today on the blog too. If you are subscribed to the e-newsletter, you will also be receiving an email today that celebrates Negra’s journey over the last eight years.

For now, here’s a glimpse of the first year of sanctuary for the Cle Elum Seven.


EVERYTHING was new to the chimpanzees.


From enrichment:



To the views out the windows:


To the changes in weather:


Rainstorm bravery

Missy standing in doorway


Let it snow!

Annie eating snow, Jamie and Negra in doorway


And the chimpanzees were new to us humans, too. Though we had met them at Buckshire before they came to the sanctuary, we didn’t have the chance to really get to know them until we spent time with them in their new home. We started to learn about their personalities and their likes and dislikes pretty quickly.

Here is one observation about Jamie and her intelligence a few days after the chimps arrived:

Learning about Jamie


And of course the humans, and Foxie herself, discovered her lasting love of troll dolls during her first year of sanctuary, leading us to ask supporters for more troll dolls. None of us knew then how big her collection would become!

Foxie with Troll and night time package


Foxie’s first troll doll:

Foxie and Trixie


Foxie demonstrating that troll dolls suit her fun-loving personality:



We were delighted to discover Burrito’s out-of-this-world food-squeaking:


Touched by Annie’s love of Missy:

Annie grooming Missy

Missy and Annie with big playfaces

Missy and Annie with big playfaces


And thrilled with Jody’s ability to relax:

Jody on Valentine's Day, just holding her feet



Every day of the chimps’ first year in sanctuary was an incredible gift.

I’m not going to lie–we had some tough times as an organization as we were just getting our footing. There were stressful moments, to be sure, but it was so inspiring to have the opportunity to watch the chimpanzees learn more about their new home and themselves. And it was incredible to connect with other people who wanted to be a part of giving them that chance. This blog has played a big role in that process, and I’m grateful to everyone who has read it in the past and is reading it right now. Thank you!

It’s pretty thrilling to think that if you stick around you will also be a part of providing so many “firsts” for more chimpanzees who will be coming to Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest in the future.


Today we remember Robert Ruggeri

Monday, June 6th, 2016

This special day of sanctuary was sponsored by the chimpanzees’ good friend, Rachel Ruggeri, in memory of her father, Robert Ruggeri. Rachel shared this wonderful message about today:

“My father loved animals and always believed freedom was preferable to security…for all creatures. He would have been proud to see the gang at Cle Elum find both their freedom and their happiness. Monday, June 6th would have been my father’s 80th birthday. In his honor, may the Cle Elum gang know freedom for the rest of their lives.”

Rachel we are so full of gratitude to you for all that you do for the chimpanzees – for providing them with the opportunity to live out their days with the freedom to be, and continue to discover, exactly who they are in each minute of the day. Freedom means different things to different people and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for providing them with a home in which they feel secure enough to be more courageous, joyful, and comfortable in their own skin, expanding far beyond any physical boundaries.

Robert must have been an amazing person and we are so happy to honor him today! All of us here at CSNW are wishing you a day filled with love, joy and comfort as you celebrate the memory of your father.





Foxie and Dora:










Annie and Missy:

Missy Annie running behind

Speaking on Captivity

Saturday, June 4th, 2016

Captivity. It’s been in the news a lot, and I know on a lot of our minds.

It is simply a fact of everyday life and work when your occupation is caring for chimpanzees in a sanctuary. We go to great lengths to ensure that the chimpanzees are unable to breach the barriers we have constructed to contain them, and while we do it for both their own safety and the safety of those on the other side of the barriers, it doesn’t change the reality of the situation–the steel caging, bullet-proof glass, electric fence, and many, many locks of which only the humans have the keys.

As a sanctuary, our aim is to attempt to right what we perceive to be a wrong and to give back some measure of what our species has taken from another species, but we don’t view this second chance for the chimpanzees living here as the ideal life, and our friends behind bars often remind us of this. A few years ago, I wrote about my perception of Jamie’s awareness of her own captivity in the context of the shift in how we as a society view what chimpanzees deserve and what our obligations are towards them. You can read that post here.

I am buoyed by the positive events that have occurred for chimpanzees just since writing that post three years ago. We are closer than ever – maybe we are even there – to the end of chimpanzee biomedical research in this country. How did we get here? How did we get to this moment in history where the practice of using chimpanzees in biomedical testing is widely seen as abhorrent from a society that thought it was entirely permissible and within our rights as humans to slaughter chimpanzee families, collect the infants, and ship them across the world to use them in experimentation? There are many specific answers to that question, but the general answer, I think, can be explained by a formula that applies to progress towards greater human rights as well: knowledge + people speaking out + time = societal shifts.

These shifts don’t happen overnight and they don’t happen without resistance. By definition, it takes the majority of people who held onto an “old way” of thinking to either no longer be a part of society or it takes individuals to change their own stance. We all know how stubborn our species is, so the former is often the key factor and is really built into the formula under “time.” But our modern age has given us the ability to gain information and collect knowledge in an instant, and we are quickly made aware of more people speaking out. This allows shifts to happen faster.

As uncomfortable and impassioned as some discussions can get around the practice of keeping great apes and other non-human animals in captivity, I choose to view it as very positive sign that these discussion are happening in a very public way. The proverbial and literal elephant in the room is being pointed out, making it almost impossible to ignore the bigger ethical questions of holding intelligent, highly social, long-lived species in captive environments, generation after generation. What truly justifies this activity?

The thing about societal shifts in thinking, though, is that when you’re in the middle of them, there will be individuals and institutions on both sides. Looking back at shifts that have happened in the past, it’s really difficult to understand how so many people were involved in something that is now viewed as unjust, but that’s the benefit of hindsight. There is no “new way” without an “old way” and the “old way” is something that the majority of people likely had few qualms about, but that doesn’t mean they had some sort of flaw in their character. I applaud the individuals and institutions that are at the forefront of rejecting old, unfair, and unjust ways of doing things, but I understand that some will invariably be slower to adjust–that’s all part of a shift.

Let’s keep talking. Let’s not be afraid of our convictions and our desire for a more just world. And let’s also remember that each of us have different levels of knowledge, exposure to different voices, and may have developed our opinions in a different period of time and societal-wide mentality than ourselves.

In the meantime, let’s be thankful, on behalf of seven chimpanzees in Cle Elum, Washington, that societies do indeed shift towards greater understanding and compassion, and it happens one person at a time. Though we are unable to give the chimpanzees true freedom, we can give them something closer to it than they’ve ever experienced before.


Here’s Missy and Annie enjoying the wild prickly lettuce that they harvested:

Missy eating prickly lettuce

Missy and Annie with prickly lettuce

Annie sitting on a log