There are an estimated 2,000 chimps held in captivity in the United States. These chimps are used for entertainment, invasive biomedical research, and as exotic pets. More often than not the chimps suffer in these environments.
I have contacted one anonymous chimpanzee. Here we will call her Faith. Faith lived for 20-plus years at a biomedical research laboratory. For the last 13 years she has been at a sanctuary. Here I ask Faith to tell us her story.
Laura: Faith, would you like to tell me anything about your past?
Faith: I was taken from the wild when I was very young. They shot my mom with a gun and her blood splattered on me. Then they grabbed me and put me in a burlap bag and I couldn’t get out. They brought me to a market where a man took me home. The man spent a lot of time taming me and making me understand him. He taught me how to put on clothing, go to the bathroom, and eat with utensils. I slept in a cage. He took me to a place where I had to perform tricks for people. Any type of loud noise reminded me of my mom being shot and her blood in her eyes.
One day a loud noise was set off and I was back in that memory. I bit someone and then others put me in a cage for many weeks and nobody came to talk to me; they just threw food at me and then I ended up at the laboratory. At the laboratory they gave me lots of drugs so that I couldn’t stand up. They would tie my arms with these tight straps and shoot things in my veins and then they would take a lot of blood from me and I would feel even dizzier. There were other chimps there and they would howl and bang the cages, but I learned to go deep inside of myself and remember when my mom would rock me in her arms or when I would feel the trees up against my stomach. I would remember the dirt on my feet and I think the chimps that never had that were worse off because they only had the mean people with needles to remember.
Some people at the lab liked me because I knew not to bite anyone anymore and I would try to stay calm and so they would take me to the bathroom and hold my hand and walk around with me or give me special food but only for short periods because they didn’t like any sign of energy, and if I tried to play or run they would give me the drugs that would make me tired and sick to my stomach. People are bad. My left arm still is sore from all the needles. When I think of the lighting there it hurts my eyes.
Laura: Faith can you tell me a little about the sanctuary where you are now?
Faith: I am still in a cage but it is bigger. I have friends and I am able to think for myself and people find joy in watching me. I don’t feel like I am in a natural place but I feel as if I am in a place where I am safe and my friends here feel safe and we get good food to eat and people smile here. I get scared when the doctor comes but I have learned its okay. When I sleep at night, sometimes I awake and I forget where I am or I have nightmares.
I would like a big ball to roll. I would like those toys where you have to figure out what shape goes into the hole.
One of my left toes hurts sometimes. Can you tell my people that sometimes I want them to leave me sleeping later and I want a blanket? Tell my new people that I don’t want my old people to visit. They are scary.
Laura: Do you know that there are people who are trying to protect chimpanzees? So that others will not have to go through what you went through.
Faith: I know there are people fighting for us. Can you tell those people that they cut animals open and kill animals at the laboratory and just leave their bodies for all of us to see? Can you tell those people that I would like them to do something to remember those chimps that have died with no respect?
Laura: What would you like them to do?
Faith: I would like the people to dedicate a climbing tree to them ‘cause they would have liked to have felt a tree up against their body.
BELOW IS A VIDEO OF LABORATORY CHIMPS SEEING THE OUTSIDE FOR THE FIRST TIME. Faith is not one of these chimps: