Sunday, April 29, 2007

Tragic Deja Vu

When the sad story of the transfer of the OSU chimps began, there were fatal mistakes made on the part of those responsible at the University and on the part of those responsible at PPI.

The death of Kermit, Bobby, and the disappearance and presumed death of Jane could have been prevented if well-trained individuals were involved in the transfer. As we at Kermit’s Community have said from the outset, the caregivers who the animals knew, trusted, and loved should have been allowed to help with the transition period. This is standard animal care practice and it is particularly important for highly sensitive and intelligent chimpanzees. Every compassionate individual who oversees chimpanzee care knows just how crucial a stable transition is for the well being of the animals. Every reputable chimpanzee facility allows (and some require) that there be a period of time in which departing caretakers introduce new caretakers. Many chimpanzee facilities require that caretakers accompany the chimps to the new environment to help with the transition.
PPI did not allow caretakers to accompany the nine chimps and 3 monkeys from OSU and Kermit and Bobby died. Three members of the board of PPI who condoned the conditions that led to these, and other deaths, as well as the person who funded the campaign to keep chimpanzees in tortured conditions and defended the neglect that led to Kermit and Bobby’s deaths are back in charge of PPI.

And what is the first thing they are doing? Violating basic standards of chimpanzee care and abruptly removing care takers, changing care practices, and thus creating unnecessary distress for the chimpanzees and other animals.

The state appointed receiver allowed the former care staff to remain at PPI, even when they were causing all sorts of difficulties for the new staff and volunteers. Lee Watt put the well-being of the animals first and allowed the former care staff to remain for a reasonable transition period.

Apparently, putting the well-being of the animals ahead of ideologies and personal or political vendettas is not what the new PPI board is interested in. They weren’t interested in it as they allowed chimpanzees to suffer, to starve, to remain isolated, and to perish – there is no evidence that they have changed. They may very well care about the concept of “animals,” but caring for actual individuals requires more than rhetoric.

Friday, April 20, 2007

In Memory of Bobby

Today marks the one year anniversary of Bobby's death.

Bobby was shipped to Primarily Primates from his home at The Ohio State University Chimpanzee Center on March 1, 2006 with the rest of Kermit's Community. After the incompetent transfer that led to Kermit's death, Bobby, Sarah, Sheba, Ivy and Keeli were separated from Harper and Emma (who were taken to Wally Swett's backyard enclosure) and from Darrell (who was put in solitary confinement in a small dark indoor cage). Less than two months after this traumatic move, Bobby was found dead. Although the former director of PPI, Wally Swett, pinned his death on a "heart condition," much like many who try to cover-up their responsibility for otherwise unexplained chimpanzee deaths, Bob's necropsy report suggests that Bobby's heart failed because he was starving. After seeing video footage of Bobby four weeks after he arrived at PPI, his former caretakers reported that he had lost over 60 lbs. Bobby was given no medical attention even though a PPI staff member noticed that he was lethargic in the days leading up to his death. The special instructions sent to PPI from his former caretakers regarding his sensitive nature were ignored and the 6 weeks he spent at PPI were filled with confusion, despair, and literal heartbreak. His death was slow, painful, and unnecessary. The people who starved Bobby to death and caused him to die of a broken heart claim to be friends of animals. Bobby, and all the chimps at PPI, don't need those sorts of "friends."

Bobby was a remarkable individual -- everyone who met him immediate noticed just how unique he was. He was extraordinarily intelligent, mastering over 60 English words that he would breeze through on his computer touch-frame. He taught the other chimps how to solve problems. He was a fantastic artist, who enjoyed making paintings and eating paint. He was an active member of the group, his displays were the longest, loudest, and most rhythmical of any of Kermit's Community members. Yet, Bobby was the gentlest, most compassionate individual. He was sweet, loving, and completely trusting. He would blow kisses to caretakers and flirt with visitors. He trusted and respected those around him and he was betrayed. His death will always weigh especially heavy on the hearts of those who knew and loved Bob, because he truly was special. We owe it to this beautiful, extraordinary being to make sure the abuse and neglect Bobby suffered at the hands of the ignorant and arrogant never happens again.