Not much is known about my early years, but I was born in 1989. At the age of 10 I was transferred from a Hollywood trainer to the Mobile Zoo in Wilmer, Alabama. I lived alone for a number of years, until the Mobile Zoo obtained two other chimpanzees, a male and a female. The male chimpanzee died acutely, and the 13 year old female chimp passed away after having a benign tumor removed from her leg.
I lived alone in a small enclosure that had an indoor sleeping space and an outside area with a dirt floor and very little sunlight. I was separated from the public by two heavy-duty chain linked fences. I liked to throw dirt at visitors. I had one caregiver who loved me a lot and I was very close to her.
Save the Chimps’ Executive Director and senior veterinarian traveled to the zoo in April 2016 to pick me up. I am a very smart chimpanzee; I knew something was up when they arrived the day before my transport to meet me, so I chose not to come into my night house that evening. The next morning the zoo’s veterinarian arrived and everyone could see that we were fond of each other. The veterinarian carefully sedated me, performed a physical exam, and took blood work. I was mildly underweight, but otherwise healthy.
I was transferred to a spacious travel cage and was very relaxed on the long trip to Florida. I was a happy traveler, and spent most of my time admiring the view outside the front window. When the van stopped for any reason, I would vocalize with excitement to announce my arrival. I took naps after making an elaborate nest of blankets, using the stuffed toys as a pillow. When we arrived in Gainesville, Florida, I was greeted by a very special friend to chimpanzees, Dr. Jane Goodall, who spent half an hour with me. She loved sitting and talking to me but playfully noted, “He couldn’t care less who I am.”
I have adapted extremely well to my new home in Florida. I have met several chimps and have been very playful with each of them. Timmy and I have forged a special bond and can often be seen playing, holding hands, and resting together.
I always greet my new chimp friends with a warm embrace and smile. However, I smile like most chimps who were used in the entertainment industry, where they taught us to “smile” like human beings, showing all our teeth. When chimps smile naturally, they always cover their top teeth with their upper lip. Unfortunately, in chimp communication, showing all my teeth could be interpreted as a threat or conflicted emotion. Facial expressions are very important in chimpanzee communication, but thankfully none of my new chimp friends have taken offense to my toothy grin. My friends all love me for who I am.
We are thrilled to welcome Joe to the Sanctuary. Stay tuned for more updates and photos of Joe enjoying his new home at Save the Chimps.
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