Carole Noon remembers Carrie.
Carrie was born in Africa 46 years ago. After being captured as a child, she was sold in 1963 to the Institute for Primate Studies, which did cognitive and language research. In 1985 Carrie was sold to the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgeries in Primates (LEMSIP). At LEMSIP, famous for being the first “all indoor lab,” chimpanzees lived alone in small cages suspended three feet off the ground so waste could fall through the bars of the cage floor. While there, Carrie was used in rhinovirus and hepatitis research, which included countless liver biopsies and blood samples.
Carrie was also used as a breeder and gave birth to at least 8 children. She was denied the ability to be a mother, as all 8 babies were taken from her shortly after their births.
When LEMSIP closed in 1996, Carrie was sold to the Coulston Foundation, a biomedical laboratory with the worst record of primate care in the history of the Animal Welfare Act. During her time at Coulston, Carrie was put on heart medication because of an emerging heart problem. In late 2002, Save the Chimps purchased the New Mexico property previously owned and operated by the Coulston Foundation. In connection with the purchase, Fred Coulston donated all 266 chimpanzees being held there to Save the Chimps. Fortunately for Carrie, she would never be sold again.
With the purchase of the former Coulston lab, Save the Chimps became the world’s largest chimpanzee sanctuary, and Carrie’s quality of life immediately improved. She began receiving
meals of fresh fruits and vegetables, blankets, enrichment activities and was able to meet and socialize with other chimps; but most importantly, she received love, compassion and respect for the first time in her life.
In 2005 Carrie was part of the first group to be relocated to Save the Chimps’ permanent Florida sanctuary. Carrie enjoyed living within a family and was able to enjoy the utdoors for the first time since her brief childhood in Africa.Unfortunately, the years of mistreatment she endured left Carrie with a compromised heart and in late 2007 her health began to decline. Since that time, Carrie’s health and appetite fluctuated. Making the quality of Carrie’s last days a priority, we kept a special drawer in the refrigerator with Carrie’s name on it so she could be given anything she wanted to eat.
Soon, it became clear that Carrie wasn’t going to be with us much longer. In an effort to prolong her life, sanctuary staff considered keeping Carrie indoors on the hottest days of the Florida summer, afraid she wouldn’t make it back to the cooler building once she walked to the large island. Not surprising, Carrie’s determination wouldn’t allow this and she insisted on going outside throughout the long, hot and humid Florida summer. After all, she had spent decades locked indoors without sunlight or exposure to the outside world. When staff would ask me if they should allow Carrie outside, I could only answer that it was “her life and they should do as she wants.”
On the afternoon of June 27, 2008, I noticed Carrie was having difficulty breathing and was lying halfway across a land bridge near the edge of her island. The chimpanzees in Carrie’s family group stopped by her, one by one, as they left the island to enter their building for lunch. Peggy, her best friend, sat with her for a while and then also moved inside. When the chimps in Carrie’s group went inside for lunch we humans went to the island to be with Carrie. We were with Carrie when she simply ran out of time.
Carrie’s death is one of the easiest I have experienced; maybe because I was prepared, maybe because this wonderful old lady had made it to Florida and had been pampered by her human and chimpanzee families alike, or maybe it was because she was headed OUT to the island. With a soul and spirit, unlike any other, Carrie passed away surrounded by loved ones with an incredible expression of peace on her face.
The Arcus Foundation will match all donations to Save the Chimps in Carrie’s name.
Save the Chimps, Inc. is a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization and all contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
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