Loved and Lost, How We Honor the Passing of our Beloved Residents

How We Honor the Passing of our Beloved Residents | In Memory | Donate In Their Memory

A Time to Weep, a Time to Laugh, a Time to Mourn, a Time to Dance

A core value at Save the Chimps is that each chimpanzee deserves a life free from suffering, and passing with dignity is central to this philosophy.

We are occasionally asked, “What happens when a chimpanzee dies?” People wonder what we do, and how the chimps react. Over the years, we have developed a ritual to honor and say goodbye to a chimpanzee who has passed away. The chimpanzees themselves are very much a part of that ritual. Due to our own sorrow and focus on the departed chimpanzee and his or her family, we have never documented our response to a death of a chimpanzee. However, on the morning of July 2, 2014, one of our beloved residents, Spock, passed away while photographer Jo-Anne McArthur was visiting the sanctuary. Jo-Anne, author of We Animals and subject of the documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine, is a long time friend and supporter of Save the Chimps. Jo-Anne kindly photographed the chimpanzees and us as we said goodbye to Spock. Here we share with you our funeral rites for the chimpanzees, illustrated by our farewell to the venerable Spock. We share this not to bring you sorrow, but because as a supporter, you are a part of our extended family. You have made the chimpanzees’ lives in sanctuary possible, and we know that you share the love we have for the chimps, even beyond their deaths.

Saying Goodbye

*All photographs by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals unless otherwise noted.
**Please note that the following images may be disturbing to some viewers.

  • When a chimpanzee passes away at Save the Chimps, the veterinarian is immediately notified. The caregivers attempt to isolate the chimpanzee who has passed, but the chimpanzees often do not want to leave the side of a fallen comrade. We wait until the chimpanzees are ready leave the body.