Saturday, October 21, 2006

Former Caregivers now Cleaning Up OSU’s Mess


Since they loaded 9 chimps and 3 capuchin monkeys onto a truck in late February 2006, Stephany Harris and Klaree Boose have appealed to everyone they could think of to fulfill the commitment they made to care for these animals. They were told by OSU officials that the chimps were going someplace better to retire, then Kermit died before he was even unloaded from his transport cage. They repeatedly asked OSU administrators to follow standard primate care protocol and allow them to help the chimps with this major transition. OSU wanted to wash their hands of it. They offered to care for the animals free of charge at PPI for a few months while the chimps adjusted. Wallace Swett, then director of PPI, refused and then Bobby died. They joined a lawsuit funded by PETA and through their testimony helped convince a court appointed trustee that the animals should be moved to a true sanctuary, but then the judge threw the case out of court claiming they didn’t have standing.

Now they are standing in years of accumulated filth, cleaning up other people’s tragic messes. After 7 frightening months, they have finally been reunited with the 7 remaining chimpanzees and two capuchins who were dumped by OSU and neglected by PPI. But there is a lot of work that still must be done -- every day the chimps stay at PPI their suffering continues.

Harris says “I have alternated between insomnia and nightmares since I first saw the conditions at PPI on June 30th. At that time Sarah, Sheba, and Rain looked like they were on the verge of death. After being back here for just under a week, I can now see that the conditions are far worse than I even imagined. There is simply no way to get this place clean. None of the animals should be living in these conditions.”

Harris and Boose have been focused on comforting and reviving the chimpanzees they have worked with for 6 years. Darrell, who is almost 27 years old, has been alone in a small, hot cage with no light since arriving at PPI in March. He has become more alert and engaged since Harris and Boose arrived but he is also confused, he needs to be reunited with his chimpanzee family. Since early September, Emma and Harper, who are both 7 years old and youngest of the former OSU animals, have been locked in a rodent and roach infested indoor cage that is ¼ the size of Darrell’s, roughly 5 feet wide by 15 feet deep. Boose said “Chimps, especially youngsters, need space to play. At OSU, Emma and Harper ran around in woods, climbed trees, and did summersaults in the grass. Even though they have hay on the floor of the cage and have toys to play with, their psychological well-being depends on their being moved to a real sanctuary.” Sarah too has been locked in a small, substandard enclosure that gives her very little room to move. Harris says, “Sarah is in her 40s and it is important for her physical health for her to get exercise.”

Sheba, Keeli, and Ivy are together in an enclosure and of all the animals Sheba was in the worst shape when Harris and Boose arrived. Sheba has begun eating vociferously and the social structure of this small group has stabilized. Harris reports that “Sheba’s voice is getting stronger and Sheba no longer has to compete with Ivy and Keeli for food. ” Boose said, "Today Sheba was sitting in between Ivy and Keeli and they were all eating their bananas."

While Harris and Boose are grateful that the Texas Attorney General has stepped in, Boose says “There aren’t enough hours in a day to properly care for the 7 chimps and 2 monkeys we are responsible for in this dysfunctional situation, let alone the 65 other chimpanzees who are so desperate for attention. We have been trying to provide enrichment to and care for all of them, but the only thing that will really help is for them all to get out of here. We are really hoping the sanctuary community will rescue them.”

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