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A Message from our Executive Director

Summer 2020

We know COVID-19 has had far-reaching effects on nearly everyone’s lives. We hope everyone in our animal-loving community is healthy and safe. Please know we have been thinking about all of you.

We want you to know that Primarily Primates is always open. Despite natural disasters, pandemics and national quarantines, care staff shows up because the approximately 300 mammals and birds depend on us for care. Per usual, our staff is providing all the essentials, food and healthcare, enrichment activities that stimulate our animals’ wild behaviors, as well as maintaining habitats and the property. (Rest assured our staff has been following all Center for Disease Control recommendations.)

That is why we still need your support. A huge thank you to everyone who has donated and sponsored animals throughout our Facebook Live events, which we offered to give people some relief from stress-inducing news and to give parents something to watch with their kids.

If you tuned into our second Facebook Live event in early April, you were introduced to Selena, Norma and Mighty Fine—our three most recent chimpanzee rescues. We rescued them in December 2019 from a failed sanctuary in California.

All three are originally from a university lab in New York City. Norma and Selena are sisters—taken away from their mother shortly after birth. Coincidentally, we rescued their mother and brother, Shu-Shu and Tommy respectively, from the same lab in May 1996.

Mighty Fine, who is 28, has the distinction of being the smallest chimpanzee at the sanctuary. What he lacks in stature he makes up for in personality. Mighty Fine is very bonded with his habitat mates. He is constantly on the lookout for Norma and Selena, and if he sees an unfamiliar volunteer or a stray deer near their habitat, he will gently grab them by the hand and lead them to their bedrooms.

Mighty Fine loves fruit and his favorites are the most exotic—like dragon fruit, mango, papaya (which are rare treats). Mighty Fine had already mastered the trading game before coming to Primarily Primates. He will trade any type of debris in his habitat for treats, as he prefers a Martha Stewart-level of cleanliness.

Selena, who is 27, is the equivalent of the high school cheerleader: very popular, and bubbling with personality. She is so popular that the alpha male, Deeter, in the habitat next door is a huge fan and constantly invites her to consider a move to his enclosure. Her favorite foods are grapes and strawberries. Any time a caretaker is nearby Selena likes to sandwich herself between Norma and Mighty Fin to make sure she is literally the center of attention.

Norma, 28, is quiet, reserved, gentle and thoughtful—which is ironic because she is a very large chimpanzee. She has a lot of freckles on her face just like her brother Tommy. Norma loves both Selena and Mighty Fine dearly, and she spends quite a bit of time each day grooming them. She is also very fond of the watching the antics between Deeter and Grace, who live next door, and often sits very close to their enclosure for a bird’s eye view.

Interestingly, Norma, Selena and Mighty Fine build a playroom inside their bedrooms every day, dedicating an entire portion to whatever new, fun enrichment items they’ve been offered. They are the first chimpanzees at Primarily Primates to do this.

We can rescue animals like Mighty Fine, Norma and Selena because of your generosity and kindness. Primarily Primates could not exist without you.

While we know this is a difficult time for many, we appreciate any donation you are able to make. We are grateful for your enduring support. Please donate online below.

Thank you for your support,

Brooke Chavez

PPI’s Work is Always Essential

Animal rescue, habitat construction continues because lives depend on it

COVID-19 has brought the world to its knees, but Primarily Primates work continues to be essential.

Primarily Primates was working with the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance and a fundraising group to rescue three more chimpanzees from a shuttered California sanctuary. As you know, last fall we took in 10 other primates from that sanctuary, including chimpanzees Norma, Selma and Mighty Fine.

We must raise $500,000 with outside help as well as the help of our own donors. That is why support from our members is as crucial as ever and so greatly appreciated.

If we achieve our fundraising goals, it is a possibility that Jeeter, Cayleb and Jake are coming to PPI, (although it could be three different chimps as there are several that need placement). Jeeter, 31, and another chimpanzee were kept as pets in a Palm Springs home. Cayleb, 18, and Jake, 20, were relinquished by Steve Martin, owner of Working Wildlife, which trains big cats, primates, wolves and other species to be exploited by the entertainment industry.

We have learned that Jeeter is the peacemaker of the troop. Cayleb takes a bit of time to trust but is a big softie once he warms up to care staff. Jake loves stuffed animals and to play chase with his caregivers while he rolls his head around, like he cannot handle the fun. Jeeter also likes to play chase and listen to the radio as well as making big fluffy nests to sleep in.

We know that chimpanzees used in entertainment have been taken away from their mothers almost immediately for training. And often trainers use physical force, fear and domination to train the animals. Not to mention withholding affection and reassurance.

At PPI, the goal is to ensure each animal’s life is filled with a comfortable, secure and stimulating environment and to give them choices to flourish in their own way.

That is why we are particularly excited about a new, very spacious green space unlike any before at PPI that these new chimps will have access to. The $500,000 raised will allow for construction of the green space as well as demolitions, existing bedroom renovations, administrative costs, veterinary care and an endowment to cover long-term care. If we exceed our fundraising goal, there is also a possibility that one or two more groups of chimpanzees from the shuttered sanctuary will find refuge at PPI.

Three existing habitats will connect to the new green space offering expanded opportunities for enrichment, play and exercise. Among them will be swings, climbing structures, and playscapes such as a bouldering wall and musical garden where they can explore.

We will also be removing some very old structures including an orangutan habitat. In its place will be an ape house that can be used as an additional chimpanzee hang out space or for sick or injured animals. An observation area for volunteers and staff will also be included.

The whole area will be called “Rudy’s Great Outdoors” in honor of our late chimp Rudy who succumbed to cancer in 2017. Known as the godfather of chimps at PPI, he was the first to arrive in 1983 after years of being exhibited in a small cage as a circus sideshow attraction. It will be right next to our Primadome, PPI’s very first chimpanzee-centric enrichment enclosure that opened in March 2014.