Posts tagged chimpanzee

When a new chimpanzee caregiver is being taught to interact safely with the chimpanzees, we often start by introducing him/her to Rachel. She loves to spend time with her human friends and will often initiate grooming sessions or games of chase and tickle.  

Training a new chimpanzee caregiver is always a lengthy process. Chimpanzee behaviours are complex and it takes time to learn how to understand and respond appropriately. Caregivers at Fauna are encouraged to use friendly and situation-appropriate chimpanzee behaviors during their interactions with the chimps. Some of these include simple gestures such as offering a bent wrist or head-bobbing when you greet one of the chimps. Caregivers also use food-grunts while serving meals.

Rachel is a wonderful 31 year old chimpanzee who was literally tortured during her years in research labs. Emotionally damaged, she has worked hard to make a life for herself in sanctuary developing tight bonds with some of her chimpanzee family, especially Toby. Rachel’s journey has been a hard one, but for those of us who see her daily, it is harder and harder to remember her last bad day.

Please read her story here:

photos © njwight

When Gloria Grow first met Binky in the labs at LEMSIP, he was  just a youngster of seven years. By the time the Fauna Sanctuary was built, in the fall of 1997, a new life was starting for this dear little eight year old.

Already he had experienced a life of loss, disappointment and deep pain, but his new life in sanctuary provided many wonderful new adventures and surprises. Happy, fun, playful, outgoing and rambunctious, Binky seemed rather well-adjusted compared to the others, so it was a surprise to learn just how hard it was for him and why he sometimes acted-out and caused problems. It was soon realized that he was desperately looking for acceptance, support and love, but was lacking the social skills necessary to achieve these. He also did not have a mother in his life to nurture and support him…(you can read the rest of Binky’s story here.)

How time flies! This week Binky turns 25!! Come check out our Facebook page and help celebrate this wonderful occasion.

Gloria Writes about Sue Ellen!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day Everyone and Happy Birthday Sue Ellen

St. Patrick’s Day is a special day here at Fauna because of Sue Ellen and the celebration of “her”. Our dear little Sue is so stunningly beautiful–her eyes, her remarkable ears and her expressive mouth–all never cease to make me and everyone around her smile. I cannot believe we are celebrating her 46th Birthday–and 17 years of friendship!

 So an Irish quote for you Sue:

May God grant you many years to live,

For sure he must be knowing.

The earth has angels all too few,

And heaven is overflowing.

When Nancie Wight (NJ Wight) sends me the beautiful photos she takes of Sue Ellen, I must admit, I sit staring at them endlessly. I can see all the details of Sue Ellen’s beautiful face in Nancie’s photos and they never cease to amaze me.  All the details I don’t always see in person, the camera brings to life; the little creases in her face, the droplets of moisture on her skin, the tiny red grooming spots, done with love and sometimes too much enthusiasm by her friends and family. Nancie searches out the many intricate details the human eye cannot really see from a distance. She captures Sue’s many moods and expressions with her camera, then sends them to me in my home where I can delight in having Sue Ellen on my computer screen and on my walls. I am able to conjure-up her beautiful face whenever I want, with the click of a button.

Sue Ellen is a little chimpanzee, small frame, tiny beautiful face and a lovely little Buddha-belly. Her movements are restricted because of her limp, so it is not possible for her to run or play chase. She was injured many years ago in her laboratory cage and has walked with a very bad limp from that time. It slows her down and has certainly increased her frailness over the years. However, never let the look deceive you, as a small package may contain a fierce and fiery personality! What Sue Ellen is missing in physical strength she makes up for in inner strength, possessing a dynamic personality. Sue has quite a character with strong traits; protective, quick tempered and feisty. Some days one might even say she is grumpy, but I always say to anyone who tells me that: “What did you do to make her mad?”

Sue Ellen stands up for herself and for her friends. She will take on any battle to protect her friends and always protects herself from us, even when we are trying to be nice. She has been hurt so much in her lifetime and most definitely hurt by those who pretended to be her friends. The men in the laboratory who darted and injected her and the man who purchased her when she was a baby–the same man who was responsible for holding her down while her teeth were hammered out and broken… That has confused and hurt her deeply. Not knowing who to trust has damaged her soul. Yet, she is ALWAYS supportive of those she loves, her chimpanzee family, and would do anything for them.

Sue Ellen has some of the most extraordinary traits and in the human world she might be perceived as an outspoken, relentless defender of good, with no tolerance for evil. She could have been a Judge, Spiritual Leader or a Saint.

Each time I see a photo of Sue Ellen I am amazed by her beauty. In photos I see the beautiful sweet soul she is and the strong individual she has become. I can see her many sides in her expressions, the way she will tighten her lips and transform into our “firey Sue”, or those “angelic” beautiful moments–Nancie captures all sides of Sue Ellen for the world to see. It is such a blessing to let the world learn her story and catch a glimpse of the wonderful Sue Ellen Chimpanzee.

When Sue Ellen came to Fauna in 1997 her files had no date of birth on them, only a year of birth, sometime in 1968. It seemed important to decide on a day to celebrate her birth. Everyone needs a Birthday, everyone has one and in some ways I suppose it doesn’t matter if it’s accurate so long as it is celebrated. So we chose a date for her, March 17, St. Patrick’s Day and this is why it was chosen…

Sue Ellen has always loved to wear clothes-mardi gras beads, scarves, purses and sashes-around her neck and her waist. On many occasions we would decorate the chimphouse for special events providing new items for Sue Ellen to experiment with, including shiny sashes. When Sue Ellen puts these things around her neck she seems content and always looks so proud of herself. In particular, she loves to carry long sticks or wands under her arm, like a queen granting wishes in her Queendom.

Although all of these things are totally unnatural for a chimpanzee to enjoy, these are reminders of her past life in the human world. As a little girl she was taken from her Mom, ending up with humans. She was forced to wear human clothes, act like a human and was used as a source of income for her owner. For Sue Ellen to still want to do this is normal; she is confused about who she is and that is a consequence of living such a life.

Although the reasons Sue Ellen loves human things are sad and disturbing, there is not much we can do to change that for her now. If these are things that give her pleasure in any way, she should have them. She will never walk the forests or have children of her own, nor can she know any normal chimpanzee life. She is a victim of an industry that needs to be regulated and stopped: the animal entertainment industry. The demand for animal actors and animal models to feed the entertainment industry destroys lives.

It is all of this that makes Sue Ellen who she is. It is all these factors that made us decide on a March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, to celebrate Sue Ellen’s Birthday in honor of one of her best human friends, Patrick Ring, an Irishman.

The Irish are a strong culture and they have endured much in their history. They have proven to be quite resilient and incredibly strong-willed.  The Irish culture is known to be interested in others, courteous and welcoming. The Irish are also a culture that enjoys a lifestyle that allows time for friends and family, as families are closely-knit and very important to them. However, one must not be misled by the easygoing, amiable attitudes of the Irish. In negotiation, the Irish are astute and tenacious.

Sue Ellen has many of these traits: love of family, warmth, beauty, feistiness, tenacity and great courage. So another special wish and Irish quote for you Sue Ellen:

May God grant you always…

A sunbeam to warm you,

A moon beam to charm you,

A sheltering angel, so nothing can harm you.”

St. Patrick’s Day was chosen because of the St. Paddy’s Day Parade Princess and how beautiful Sue Ellen looks in green. Our Patrick Ring used to call Sue Ellen his Little Princess from that very first day he met her in the lab and until this day, the love between Pat and Sue Ellen is strong. She is and always will be Pat’s Little Princess.

In astrology March 17 falls under Pisces, The Fish, February 19-March 20. Here is a description of a Pisces personality and it could easily describe Sue Ellen!

Unassuming, the Pisces zodiac signs and meanings deal with acquiring vast amounts of knowledge, but you would never know it. They keep an extremely low profile compared to others in the zodiac. They are honest, unselfish, trustworthy and often have quiet dispositions. They can be overcautious and sometimes gullible. These qualities can cause the Pisces to be taken advantage of, which is unfortunate as this sign is beautifully gentle and generous. In the end, however, the Pisces is often the victor of ill circumstance because of his/her intense determination. They become passionately devoted to a cause-particularly if they are championing for friends or family. 

So there you have it, the reasons why this day is so special to us. It brings back many wonderful and special memories and it is a day when we celebrate not only the birth of Sue Ellen, but we celebrate the Irish, our friendships, loyalty and tenacity. It is a day to celebrate all Princesses everywhere.

I know when Nancie first came to Fauna a few years back, she fell in love with Toby, with his face, his personality and the fact that he posed so perfectly for her. What I know now, though, is that Nancie has also fallen deeply in love with our Little Susie Goose. When Nancie has the opportunity to take photos of her she is ecstatic, knowing they will be stunning, if slightly imperfect. Her challenges are always the bars, the back lighting, flying onions, mouthfuls of water, or the long arms reaching out to grab the camera. Not so with Sue Ellen, because as Nancie knows now, Sue Ellen is fantastic! She is beautiful; her face, her eyes, her hands and her fabulous ears. She is perfect and all photos of Sue Ellen make us smile.

Let’s celebrate this remarkable soul today, celebrate her getting out of the lab, her chance at a life in Sanctuary and make a toast to her survival!!! Sue Ellen is the last of her special group of eight, the first chimpanzees in the world ever to be retired to Sanctuary with the HIV virus. Along with her long time companion and friend/brother Billy Jo, her protector and loyal companion Donna Rae, her beloved Pepper, Pablo, Jeannie, Tom and Yoko, their journey to Canada made history, paving the way for others. Sue Ellen and her family and friends are heroes– Ambassadors for all chimpanzees held in research laboratories.

Happy Birthday Sue Ellen. May the strength of three always be in your journey.



If you haven’t seen our new Fauna Legends series yet, please don’t forget to renew your membership so you can receive the second edition of this wonderful new series. Sue Ellen is on the cover again and the stories and images inside will warm your heart for sure. This new series has been made possible with the help of Nancie Wight’s brilliant photography, Corey Grant’s graphic design talents and of course, the stars of our stories, the chimps. Their stories are written by me and edited by Nancie Wight. Bless you Nancie for taking this on and helping make this series possible.


Happy St Patrick’s Day!!

Happy St Patrick’s Day!!

Today we are remembering Donna Rae who left us 9 years ago. RIP sweet girl. Donna Rae was one of the many unfortunate chimps who was cross-fostered with a human child-that is, until the day she became too strong and powerful to control. She was then sold to a research lab for $1000. Please read her incredible story here:  

Today we are remembering Donna Rae who left us 9 years ago. RIP sweet girl. Donna Rae was one of the many unfortunate chimps who was cross-fostered with a human child-that is, until the day she became too strong and powerful to control. She was then sold to a research lab for $1000. Please read her incredible story here:  

Post by photographer NJ Wight

Photographing the chimps in the chimp house is exceptionally challenging.  The greatest difficulties as a photographer are the lighting and the caging doors. The light is often very high  or very low contrast and I work without flash as it startles some of the chimps. The low light demands high ISO and often produces more noise than I would like. The bars are also a real challenge! The trick to shooting through caging is to get the lens as close to it as possible. If you shoot wide-open (f2.8 and f4 for me) you can actually make the wires “almost” disappear-but to do this, the subject has to be at a distance. That’s tricky with the chimps as they generally prefer to be close to the action-all the better to squirt me with a little water. :-) When I can get them at a distance and shoot straight through, it is sometimes possible to make most of the bars disappear, or at least appear faded. When I can’t get it exactly right, I do my best to crop them out or use digital effects to create something “different.”

In the case of the top photo of Jethro, he was enjoying his bowl of grapes up on a high platform. I had to lie down to shoot up through the “port” hole in the door. It was an extreme angle so you can still see discolouration and shadows from the bars as the angle prevented me from getting close enough to them. He was also in low lighting, so there is a lot of noise in the shot. So, I decided to turn the photo into a grainy, antique-inspired black and white postcard. Removing the colour helps reduce the distraction of the colour cast caused by the bars and adding grain works with the already present noise. It’s not perfect, but it takes on a different feel. Jethro is very photogenic so I have a great subject to work with!

When a chimp is excited they may get a reaction much like what we call goose bumps or cutis anserina. Their body hair involuntarily “erupts” when tiny muscles at the base of the hair contract and pull the hair erect. This state, called pilo erect in chimpanzees is not uncommon during socializing and indicates that a chimp is in a state of emotional arousal. They may be excited, fearful or attempting to intimidate and this “puffing” up of the hair allows them to look larger and quite commanding. You can see Spock having a pilo erect reaction in the top photo and Binky all “puffed” up out on the islands. (Photo credits @ NJ Wight and © Jo-Anne McArthur)

The Fauna chimps are on a 2000 kcal a day diet, give or take 150 kcal.  Just like humans, a dietary balance of vitamins and minerals is essential for the chimps.  Vitamin C is of significant importance and we provide it through daily servings of dark leafy greens and a variety of fruits. (Kiwis, papaya, oranges, etc.) We also provide vitamin supplements when necessary. Some of the other chimp staples that fill their lunch trays and snack bags include lettuce, apples, bananas and peanuts.

Les chimpanzés de la Fondation sont au régime et leur apport calorique quotidien est limité à environ 2 000 kilocalories, avec une marge de manœuvre d’environ 150 kilocalories.  Comme nous, il leur faut chaque jour un régime équilibré en vitamines et en minéraux.  Puisque la vitamine C leur est particulièrement bénéfique, nous veillons à ce qu’ils en consomment des quantités suffisantes en leur servant quotidiennement des légumes verts et une variété de fruits tels que le kiwi, la papaye, les oranges, etc.  Nous leur donnons aussi des suppléments vitaminiques au besoin.  Parmi les aliments de base qui garnissent leurs plateaux et sacs de collation, on retrouve la laitue, les pommes, les bananes et les arachides.

Bananas are a super food so it’s no wonder the chimpanzees love them! They have high levels of tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin-a mood elevator.

Bananas pack an energy punch, plus they help regulate blood sugar. The are high in potassium and low in salt, rich in pectin, high in fiber and an aid to digestion.

This fabulous yellow fruit is high in antioxidants, providing free radicals and protection from chronic disease and they are also a natural antacid. The fruit counteracts calcium loss and can help reduce swelling. But more than anything, bananas are just a whole lot of fun to eat!!

All photos © NJ Wight