Posts Tagged ‘primate rescue’

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:


On a Mission

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

This afternoon Foxie was lying on the platform in the greenhouse when she spotted a troll doll lying on the ground. She jumped the few feet from the platform to the ground to rescue the abandoned troll.






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

Play, play, play

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Annie and Missy are quite well-known for their excited games of chase and wrestling throughout the chimp house. Negra, however, isn’t always the most likely play partner—and when she does play, she’s got her own speed (kinda slow). This time Negra was keeping up with the experts!

This video is a little longer than some of our others but I thought you wouldn’t want to miss a second of this fun play session. Thanks again to Patty W. for sponsoring today for us and for being Negra’s Pal!



Monday, March 3rd, 2014

The last couple of days we’ve been experiencing some extra snow fall, which means the chimps get to snack on some fresh snow, which they love! Elizabeth and I filled up the chimps’ sandbox with snow and added some troll dolls for some CSNW flair.

Everyone was snacking on the snow, including of course Jamie. Since she is the boss, the other chimps wanted to make sure they were okay to snack on the snow, too. That’s completely natural chimpanzee behavior, and something that is essential to their society. Jamie was fine with the other chimps enjoying the snow, there was plenty to go around, and she wasn’t feeling particularly territorial of it.

When Jody asked for Jamie’s permission, she displayed perfect reassurance behaviors. She approached with a drooped lip, making it clear that she was not being at all aggressive or threatening. Then she reached out toward Jamie as if to say “is it okay if I join?” Jamie didn’t disapprove, so Jody’s next move was to give Jamie a quick kiss on the mouth. Jamie reciprocated and gave Jody permission by giving Jody a kiss back on her brow ridge. Jody then knew it was fine with Jamie that she join in, and immediately started snacking.









Keeping Jamie enriched

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

One of the biggest challenges of this job is keeping Jamie enriched. The other chimps certainly need enrichment, too, but Jamie in particular requires a lot to keep her engaged. So I’m continually trying to find things that will be enriching for her. Kongs are a good food puzzle for the chimps because we can put nuts, peanut butter, or even mushed banana into the crevices making it tricky to get the treat out.

Recently I discovered these Kong “Genius” toys which connect together, and I thought it seemed perfect for Jamie! Thanks to Carrie M. who ordered a bunch of these Kongs for us off our Amazon wishlist recently, we were able to make several connected Kongs. Jamie of course hoarded many of them, but all the chimps were able to enjoy this puzzle. You’ll hear in the video just how happy Jamie is with all her food groans and grunts.



Speaking of Jamie and of the wishlist, we are in desperate need of a new boot dryer! Ours broke yesterday and as you can imagine we are constantly running the dryers to get Jamie’s boots quickly dry after we wash them. Dry boots makes for a happy Jamie! Both she and I would be forever grateful to anyone that is able to purchase a new one for us. If you do grab anything from the list now or anytime in the future, send me an email at so we can be sure to send you a thank you! (UPDATE: Thank you Patrick and Carrie for purchasing the boot dryer for us! The boss will be happy).


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.


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.

Foxie with tiny trolls

Saturday, January 4th, 2014

It seems Foxie has been the center of our blog posts lately, but that might be because no matter what she is doing she is bright, playful, funny, and can bring a smile to all of our faces. You’ll see what I mean while watching this video: