The world was shocked when a Chimpanzee tore off the face and hands of an American woman. Aren’t Chimps the happy pets we’ve seen in movies? No - they are not. And you can’t blame them.
Ham is fitted into his Mercury space cockpit capsule. His feet are bound down so he can’t move them. During the space flight if he pressed a right button he was rewarded with a banana wafer – if he was wrong he’d Get an electric shock.
By Ron and Linda Laytner Copyright 2009 Edit International
But Ham, who didn't like mixing with other chimps, spent years alone in a Washington, DC zoo. He finally mixed with a Chimp family in a zoo in North Carolina where he died at age 26. Other space Chimps blew up on The world’s most famous Chimpanzee was African-born launch pads or were used as living crash dummies. At Ham. He was one of 40 ‘astro’ Chimps bought by the US least Ham has a big memorial grave site at the New MexAir Force in 1959 for space exploration at Holloman Air ico Museum of Space. Base in New Mexico. The second Chimpanzee to go up in space, Enos, orbited He was trained to push a lever in response to a signal the earth twice, paving the way for John Glenn’s flight. light. If he did it right he was given a banana pellet. Enos died of an infection shortly after. Glenn wrote he Wrong and his feet were electrically shocked. was humbled when he met little Caroline Kennedy who asked, “Where is the monkey?” Four-year-old Ham's 17 minute sub-orbital Mercury mission on Jan. 31, 1961 set the stage for US Astronaut Alan The rest of the ‘astro Chimps’ were used in US experiShepard to go up five months later. Shepard went on to ments and laboratory research until finally they were fame and glory and was later the third man to walk on rescued by Florida’s Dr. Carol Noon. the moon. Where Are They Now?
From the air the Chimp Sanctuary looks like a well designed Florida suburb. but it’s actually 12 Chimp family islands taking up 200 acres of former orange groves. Chimps can't swim and humans are protected by the canals.
FORT PIERCE, FLORIDA -.Street signs leading to Save The Chimps Sanctuary are small and muted along the highway. When we finally drive up a long dirt road ending in the middle of nowhere we realize why. The Chimp people, 100 miles north of Miami don’t want to be found. The Sanctuary is not open to the public.
Most Chimps are often physically abused so they will perform tasks or tricks. Chimpanzees more than five years old often become dangerous and are usually retired to research and breeding. We climb into a golf cart and go through a large gate into primate country. Our guide is Operations Director Jen Feuerstein.
The four million dollar a year non profit organization is run from a plain trailer not a fancy building. Inside a few Suddenly, we are ‘inside Africa’ on one of 12 three acre dedicated workers man computers, fax machines and islands separated by canals on which the chimps live in telephones. Another 41 people care for the Chimps. separate families. On the last uninhabited island we are The Chimp is the closest living relative of humans with safe. 98.6% of the same DNA structure. Like us they experience pleasure, depression, anxiety, pain, distress, empa- Ever since arriving we’ve been told that adult Chimpanzees are extremely dangerous, hard to believe after years thy and grief. of Chimpanzees entertaining us in movies. Actually, They are social, highly intelligent and can be taught sign Cheeta, who starred in 1930 Tarzan movies, is still alive language. And though smart, they are ferociously pow- and friendly at seventy-five in Palm Springs, California. erful and extremely dangerous.
Four-year-old Ham just before he went up as the first ‘American’ in space in January 1961. He is frightened and, dressed in his space suit, holding onto one of his handlers.
But the recent grisly attacks by a Chimp in Connecticut who bit off the face and hands of a friend of a chimp owner and two Chimps in California biting off the nose, face and genitals of a former owner visiting a sanctuary, have made us wary.
Baby chimpanzees believe humans looking after them are their mothers or fathers and everyone else is family. Small chimps crave love and return love. They wear baby diapers, drink from baby bottles and show flashes of human thought and intelligence. They can be trained to use toilets, make up their beds, sit at the dinner table and draw with crayons.
We climb up what looks like a giant children's wooden playground designed to be swung on by giant chimps, some weighing 200 pounds.
But as they grow older they realize they are not like us. Humans they come in contact with smile and show their teeth in what could be hostility. And they resent others who laugh out loud and make fun of them.
At the top we get our first glimpse of a Chimpanzee family, six or seven black, furry creatures on an island several hundred yards away. One older chimp lays in a shaded hammock under the floor of a playground. Not in a cage but in Florida paradise.
In time the growing Chimpanzee pet realizes he is many time stronger than his humans (up to seven times) and often takes offense at what used to please him. That’s when Chimpanzees can plan attacks on humans.
A young Chimp is playing with a ball and running up and down ramps into a Chimp house. A few other black shapes prowl the grounds of the little island.
Feuerstein is often interrupted by hooting and screaming Chimpanzees playing and arguing across the canal.
“They are extremely dangerous,” again warns Jen Feuerstein, “We never ever come in physical contact with them. Though most chimps are very forgiving, some can harbor deep grudges and bad memories of the humans they knew.”
The Save The Chimps Sanctuary is built on 200 acres of former Florida orange groves and was founded in 1997 by Dr. Carole Noon, a leading primatologist and follower of famed Chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall.
The Chimps eat most things humans like; oranges, bananas, apples, potatoes, carrots, celery corn and tomatoes and watermelon.
When the US Air Force got out of Chimp space research some 300 were sent to the Coulston Foundation, a bio medical research laboratory in New Mexico with the worst record of any lab in the history of US animal welfare. Dr. Noon sued the air force and won custody of 21 Chimpanzees. A year later she raised almost 4 million dollars from the Arcus great apes program and Sweden’s Wenner-gren foundations and bought Coulston's laboratory and buildings.
We love them and care for them. We have interactions with them that are positive and friendly but we recognize their danger." We are now taken to the closest spot to observe a Chimp family. “We do not allow any photographs of Chimps behind bars or cages. We can't let you get that close.” orders Director Feuerstein. The sanctuary made sure it never exposed us to any danger.
Coulston donated 266 Chimpanzees to Dr. Noon’s sanctuary. Into Florida came 142 Chimps from New Mexico and the rest are still being moved at a cost of $2,500 each.
A small family of Chimpanzees ambles over. They are the last descendants here of the US Air Force Chimp families; dominant female, Tammy, another female, a male, and finally,a tiny young Chimp who innocently runs up. When we smile at him, unwittingly showing our teeth, he flees.
Looking out across the canal, Triana Romero, in charge of public relations, says, “The families here remain in separate groups on each island. Chimps can’t swim. Our safety is the water surrounding them.
“You guys want to come out?” calls Triana and they come to the fence. “They’re waiting for lunch,” she explains. “These are happy Chimps now. But think of it, some were once living in backyards in Florida.
“This entire complex has been designed so humans never come in direct contact with the Chimpanzees.
“When we got the Chimps from New Mexico they’d been horribly treated. Some old space suits and caps were still around. They were living in filth.
Carlos has a thrilling private life in the Florida Chimp Sanctuary. He spent much of his previous life locked up in tiny cages and living on concrete.
“When Dr. Noon paid for the buildings the Chimps came along with them. We never pay for chimps. It’s like paying for people. A few times chimps have been donated here from aging owners who can’t cope with maturing chimps. They sign an agreement that they will never have another chimp live with them.”
other, in a deafening barrage of instantaneous left-right kicks – like an animal jack hammer, each kick strong enough to cave in a car door – all the time screaming Chimpanzee challenges.
It’s very hard on the new Chimps. Some who have been pets and friends of humans for decades are fearful they are being put in with wild animals and it takes up to a year for them to mix in the family.
We look up and a ten-foot-long stream of water squirts out from Tammy’s mouth.
The chimpanzees in New Mexico had been used for decades in experimental surgery and drug trials like finding out what causes heart damage. What happens to a near human when a healthy disc is removed from its neck? What happens when an artificial disc is inserted? Then, after taking it out, can a chimp live without the disc? Does it endure horrible pain? Only the chimps knew….” Suddenly, we are the target of a planned chimp 'fun attack' from behind the cage. As if obeying an order, the chimp family runs back from the fence. Tammy, the big female, leaps and climbs in a second up the cage to ten feet above us. She hangs on with her human-like fingers and begins kicking the cage with each of her feet, one after the
“Watch out!” Warns Jen.
I jump back trying not to get wet and Jan explains, “She’s really happy now. She held that drinking water in her mouth in a plan. She has shown her dominance. She made you fear, made you jump.” Tanya goes back to her family, hooting and grunting, maybe laughing, probably boasting that humans are just monkey turds and afraid. "She does this often for fun," explains Jen. We are told now how the chimps are called for food. Chimps have a very good internal clock. They know three times a day when it’s time for meals. They see a golf cart full of food rolling up near the island and they start yelling and demanding to eat. They are not fed until each Chimp is inside it’s family building, and locked inside protective cages containing toys and blankets. Sometimes a chimp obstinately blocks the entrance door until others pull him in.
This Chimpanzee with a mouth full of teeth is about 27 years old and weighs 200 pounds. As Chimpanzees age they turn grey just like humans. When in a rage Piloerection (raised hair) takes place to make them look even more ferocious. The giant razor-sharp incisor teeth showing are designed by nature to cut through the jugular veins of enemies, Chimps or humans. Because he is five to seven times stronger than man an unarmed human victim of a Chimp attack doesn’t stand a chance. Photo by Eric Matthews for Edit International.
Produce trucks deliver fresh fruit and vegetables and commercial nutritional bars. The chimps eat most things humans like; oranges, bananas, apples, potatoes, carrots, celery corn and tomatoes.
show his dominance over women. That’s when he can get dangerous. “They have dagger-like canine teeth and any attack can prove fatal,” she says. "Travis is just one story out of many, and all of them end badly”
We left Save The Chimps respecting its good people and with a better understanding of our closest animal relatives.
Because of the recent horrible Chimpanzee attacks the US government may soon enact the new Captive Primate Safety Act. Buy or transport a primate across US state lines and you’ll have the FBI after you.
There are some 300,000 chimpanzees in Africa where chimp babies are still a hot sales item as pets and tourist attractions. The only way to get them is to kill their mothers.
By Ron and Linda Laytner Copyright 2009 Edit International
Save The Chimps would not talk about the recent attack by the Chimpanzee, Travis, in Connecticut. But Dr. Virginia Landau, vice president of The Jane Goodall Institute and director of its ChimpanZoo Program in Arizona, estimates up to 400 Chimpanzees are kept as pets in America. “Many, mostly males, are time bombs,” she warns. “They’re usually owned by women who first treat them as their baby. Later, when the Chimp matures, he’s still dressed in baby clothes and treated as one. He’s embarrassed and angry. He is really a young man and wants to
Top: Dr. Carol Noon shown with a painting of a client Chimpanzee started the Save The Chimps sanctuary in 1997 and has devoted her life to it. Top Left: A young Chimp is playing with a ball and running up and down ramps into a Chimp house. A few other black shapes prowl the grounds of the little island. Bottom Left: The administration building of the Save the Chimps Sanctuary
Triana Romero, left, and Jen Feuerstein feel they are working sometimes in Africa. They stand at the top of a Chimp playhouse designed for “kids” who weigh up to 200 pounds and have five to seven times the strength of humans.
Dr. Carol Noon is driven into her Save The Chimps Sanctuary – “like a trip into Africa’.
Cheeta, who starred in 1930 Tarzan movies, is still alive and friendly at seventysix in Palm Springs, California. She smokes a cigar a day, has a couple of drinks, has an agent, and ghost writer who helped with her life story, 'Me Cheeta'. Photo Daily Mailâ€”Edit International
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FORT PIERCE, FLORIDA – Some 200 miles north of Miami we finally drive up a dirt road to the middle of nowhere and arrive at the Save The Chi...