I was born October 25, 1993 at the Coulston Foundation, a now-defunct research laboratory in Alamogordo, New Mexico, with extensive Animal Welfare Act violations. My mother, Tinker, was allowed to raise me for less than two years before I was taken from her and shipped across the country to another laboratory. My mother and I experienced heartbreak and confusion, since chimpanzees are very attached to their babies. In the wild, we would have remained together for at least five years and possibly for life. I moved between two different laboratories, one in Maryland and one in Texas, where I was used in hepatitis studies.
In 2002, the Coulston Foundation was on the verge of bankruptcy, and Save the Chimps stepped in to rescue the 266 chimps living there. However, some chimpanzees owned by the Coulston Foundation were “out on loan”, including me. In 2004, Save the Chimps regained custody of me, and my life in sanctuary began. I am now a beloved member of Ron’s family, where I live in a large family group that includes two of my sisters, Tammy and Vanna. I am described by my caregivers as sweet and quiet. I prefer to stay out of the fray when the group becomes boisterous, and can often be found with David, an elderly male chimpanzee I am closely bonded to. I love my human caregivers, and am very expressive in showing my affection! I often extend my arm toward my caregivers as a greeting gesture. It takes some time for me to be interactive with new human caregivers or visitors, but I am highly inquisitive, and watch people closely to see what they are up to.
Update from the Veterinarian
Pele has had numerous health issues despite her young age. She developed severe pneumonia at the age of 16 which took her months to recover. Two years later she became anorexic and had an elevated white blood cell count, yet her physical exam, radiographs and an ultrasound never found a cause. The same symptoms happened again the following year. Now Pele has developed kidney disease. Other young chimps used in hepatitis studies have also suffered from the same nephrotic syndrome. The kidneys start spilling protein in the urine, the protein level in the body drops and the chimp develops anemia and edema. There is no cure and we don’t know how long Pele will be with us. Until the day we must say goodbye, Pele spends her time on her large island habitat taking naps in the sun. She has wonderful friends and a family that adores her. She loves being part of the group. If her friends go outside, she follows; if her friends want to nap inside on a hot day, she joins them. Her family group can sometimes be rambunctious, but they always take care of Pele – even the feisty adolescents! Pele is irresistibly sweet, and is deeply loved by chimps and humans alike.