AV Magazine Issue 1-2 2015

Page 17

Moesha has come a long way since she first arrived at Save the Chimps (left), and today (right) is “healthy and confident.”

a “foraging board,” a piece of synthetic grass with peanut butter or oatmeal mashed into the turf. The chimps use their fingers to dig out the goodies—a task that can occupy them for hours. FINDING FAMILY What Moesha needed most, however, was a chimpanzee family. We introduced her to another female, Alari, who became her best friend. Over time, Moesha found herself with 23 new friends. It didn’t happen overnight; chimps with no social experience often find chimpanzee society overwhelming. In Moesha’s case, it took nearly four years to integrate her into a family. The caregivers get to know the chimps, and suggest who might get along with whom. We also want each family to have a balance of males and females across a wide range of ages. But once we open the door between the chimpanzees, it’s up to them. We typically introduce chimps oneon-one, rather than in a group. More often than not, they make friends. Chimps who are incompatible are separated, and

other groups found for them. After all the chimps have met each other, we merge them into a single group. Once Moesha’s family formed, they traveled in a custom trailer from New Mexico to Florida. The drive took about 40 hours, and each chimpanzee had a window seat. Once they arrived, they relaxed in their indoor housing for a day. Then came their big moment: the doors opened, and a three-acre island with hills, trees, and green grass lay before them on the other side. Save the Chimps has 12 such islands on 150 acres. Each island is connected to secure indoor housing built to withstand hurricanes. Construction required three years and more than $14 million. Like other chimps born at TCF, Moesha had never set foot on grass or soil. Many chimps with this background are apprehensive when they first go out onto the island. They stick to the patio (which is familiar concrete) and hang onto the mesh walls adjacent to the building. They may dip their toes in the grass or push on it to see if it gives way. Some chimps may

take weeks, months, or even years before summoning up the courage to walk into this foreign environment. But once they do, they relish their newly found freedom. Because Moesha was a cautious chimp, we expected she would be one of the last out the door and onto her island. Imagine our tears of joy when she was the first. The chimp who didn’t “care for change” had surprised us all. She had shown remarkable courage, and paved the way for Alari and the rest of her chimpanzee family who soon followed in her footsteps. We could not have been prouder of her. Today, Moesha is unrecognizable as the thin, pale, anxious chimp we met nine years ago. Thanks to the professional, loving care she has received, she is healthy and confident. She loves her island home and her chimpanzee family. Moesha’s recovery is a testament to the power of sanctuary, the importance of friendship, and the incredible bravery of chimpanzees. AV Jen Feuerstein is the Sanctuary Director at Save the Chimps.

ABOUT SANCTUARIES Operating a chimpanzee sanctuary requires a serious commitment and a broad range of expertise in nonprofit management, chimpanzee care, veterinary medicine, and facilities maintenance. For example, Save the Chimps employs 60 people (and has more than 80 volunteers) and has an annual budget of $5.5 million to provide a secure, sustainable environment for the chimps. Chimpanzees have long lives—sometimes living to be 50 or older—so long-term planning for sustainability is critical. In contrast, many facilities that claim to rescue and protect exotic animals do not live up to the ideals and practices followed by professional sanctuaries. These “pseudo-sanctuaries” are often open to the public, and may

breed, buy and sell animals, or train their residents for use in entertainment. Professional sanctuaries are nonprofit organizations that provide high-quality care in secure and enriched environments. True sanctuaries do not buy and sell animals or deliberately breed, are not open to the public for unescorted tours, and do not allow the public to have direct contact with the animals. A true sanctuary will be accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. Professional primate sanctuaries in the U.S. and Canada may also be members of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance. These organizations set high standards of excellence and provide independent oversight.

AV MAGAZINE

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