I was born on January 31, 2000 at the Coulston Foundation, a now defunct laboratory with the most Animal Welfare Act violations in history. The Coulston Foundation was in a time of extreme financial difficulty due to decreased funding support because of these extensive violations. In an effort to raise funds, the Coulston Foundation resorted to selling young chimpanzees into the entertainment industry. When I was only 2 years old, I was purchased with another young female from my nursery group, Phoenix, by the owner of a minor league baseball team. The team was to use us during promotional events as mascots. For several months, we were housed at a roadside zoo where we were to be trained for public appearances. In that time, a USDA inspection was conducted and the zoo was cited for Animal Welfare non-compliance. USDA officials requested an enrichment program be put in place for Phoenix and me to improve our psychological well-being. According to notes, I had developed severe rocking behaviors, a sign of significant distress and boredom. I would cling to Phoenix for comfort despite the fact that she was younger and much smaller than I was. After four months, a follow-up inspection noted that the zoo had failed to create and implement an enrichment program for us.
Upon learning about our living conditions, the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS) intervened. NEAVS negotiated with our owner to assist in regaining custody of us from the zoo if he would in turn relinquish us to NEAVS. After winning the lawsuit and gaining our custody, NEAVS coordinated with Save the Chimps to provide us with a permanent home.
I have come a long way from the young chimpanzee plagued with abnormal behavior I once was. I am now a large, confident, and high-ranking male in a group called Lou’s family. I am a very handsome and friendly chimpanzee and I always charm new visitors to the Sanctuary. I love to play with sunglasses and hard plastic toys, and enjoy getting enrichment puzzles. I am very close to my friend Bam Bam, another large male, and I am also closely bonded to Hailey, a highly intelligent female in my family. I am very respected by the other chimpanzees, and have a commanding presence; it is now hard for my caregivers to imagine me clinging to little Phoenix for reassurance! I have a unique way of “displaying” – a physical show of dominance chimpanzees perform to assert their status – in which I gather a large mouthful of water, slowly approach my audience, pant-hoot perfectly despite my mouthful of water, and eventually spit the water as a final statement! Despite my commanding presence, I am goofy at heart and love to play with both chimpanzees and humans. Space, freedom, and companionship have transformed me into the healthy and happy chimpanzee I am today.
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