Save the Chimps is pleased to announce that on June 22, 2013,
we welcomed home J.R., the 317th chimpanzee rescued by
Save the Chimps since our first chimps arrived in 2001.
He is the first new chimpanzee resident to arrive since the 2011 rescue of the Wild Animal Orphanage chimps.
J.R.’s past is a bit of a mystery, but he is believed to be approximately 25-30 years old. He had been a resident of North Carolina since approximately 2000, where he lived in two different private zoos and was often the subject of complaints to the USDA (which regulates the care of animals in zoos) by groups such as PETA. Fortunately for J.R., he caught the eye of an anonymous chimpanzee champion concerned for his well-being.
J.R. had been living alone for many years, and also engaged in self-injurious behavior, at times shaking and biting his own arm. A concerned individual worked with the zoo operators to facilitate J.R.’s release to Save the Chimps where he could meet other chimpanzees and receive treatment for his self-injurious behavior. This compassionate person also generously provided support for J.R.’s future care.
In June, Save the Chimps’ Sanctuary Director, Jen Feuerstein, Veterinarian Dr. Jocelyn Bezner, and veterinary student Danny Newhard traveled to J.R.’s residence in North Carolina. There we were met by local veterinarian Dr. Sam Young of Uncommon Creatures Mobile Veterinary Services who kindly assisted with J.R,’s transfer. The zoo’s operators and staff worked with us to ensure that the move went smoothly and that J.R. was not stressed. He was anesthetized and received a physical, and was moved into a transport cage, which was secured in a climate-controlled cargo van. After a tearful farewell, it was time to hit the road for the ten-hour drive back to Florida.
J.R. was very calm during the ride, at times even playing with Jen and Dr. B. Mostly, however, he seemed interested in watching the traffic out the back window. We wish we could know what he was thinking!
When he arrived at the sanctuary late that night, several staff members were on hand to greet J.R. and assist with his move into our “Special Needs” building. His transport cage was removed from the van via a forklift, and J.R. remained mellow for the entire process! His new digs were decorated with streamers and welcome signs, and had plenty of toys to play with. But most importantly, there were plenty of blankets that J.R. could use to get a good night’s sleep.
Since his arrival, J.R. has been getting used to the sights and sounds of his new life in Florida. He has warmed up to his new caregivers, who have fallen in love with this sweet, serious, and handsome fellow. He has received a vasectomy, and a cardiac ultrasound that revealed that he appears to have a healthy heart! J.R.’s behavior of shaking and biting his arm still occurs, and he is receiving treatment to help reduce and ultimately eliminate this behavior.
J.R. had spent several years without seeing another chimpanzee, and the first chimp he caught a glimpse of was our own Clay, who also lives in the Special Needs building. J.R. was wary but curious about Clay, and Clay was friendly to J.R. through the safety of the mesh that separates them. Clay is not friendly to chimps during free-contact introductions, however. When the time came to introduce J.R. to another chimpanzee, we selected the lovely Indie, a sweet and mellow female chimpanzee known to be calm and gentle during introductions. The two of them hit it off, and for the first time in years, J.R. had a chimpanzee friend.
The next big adventure that J.R. experienced was a visit to the Air Force Island. Although J.R. is currently a resident of our Special Needs building, the building connects to the Air Force Island. (The Special Needs chimps are allowed time out on the Air Force Island on occasion when the current island residents, Late’s Group, are locked indoors.) J.R. and Indie were released onto the island together. Indie is not much of an outdoor girl, so she stuck close to the building. J.R. explored by climbing to the top of a platform, crossing a firehose bridge, and walking to the center of the island. He came back to the building after a brief sojourn to stick close to his new friend Indie.
What is next for J.R.?
The ultimate goal will be to identify a compatible chimpanzee group for him to join at the sanctuary. This will require J.R. to slowly get used to other chimpanzees, and learn to understand chimpanzee behavior and vocalizations. He will also be allowed onto the Air Force Island on more occasions so that he can become familiar with the wide-open spaces. It will be a gradual and careful process, but we are cautiously optimistic that in the not-too-distant future, J.R. will be enjoying the companionship of a chimpanzee family.
It is thanks to you that Save the Chimps is able to continue to rescue chimpanzees in need. Please help to support our care of J.R., Indie, and the over 250 other chimpanzees who call Save the Chimps home.
On behalf of the chimps whose lives you have helped to change, thank you for your compassion and generosity.