Loving Them to Death-Tragedy at The Chimp Sanctuary
I've been meaning to write this for several months now, but I've been conflicted about it and thus unable to do so. On the one hand, I greatly admire the efforts of the chimp sanctuary. On the other hand, I must speak out against some aspects of it.
I visited the Canadian Chimp Sanctuary "Fauna Foundation" several months ago. Sadly, the visit left me feeling disheartened.
First off, I must say that the intentions of the founders and supporters of the Fauna Foundation are very noble and worthwhile. They have only the best interests of the chimpanzees at heart. They work very hard at trying to provide a good quality, permanent home to the wonderful chimps that "have been used, neglected, abused or rejected by humans", mostly in U.S. labs for "scientific" research. Even more importantly, chimp sanctuaries do a wonderful job in the campaign to end chimpanzee research.
Chimps in research live horrible lives. They are usually alone in crate like cages. They are forced to endure all sorts of tortuous abuses such as vaginal washes or liver punches-where the "scientists" remove a part of the liver for investigation, other biopsies, stressful knockdowns, and even attempts to infect them with HIV viruses. Coincidentally, I found this quote to be quite revealing: "Scientists would ultimately learn that chimpanzees do not contract AIDS from HIV infection."-Things that make you go hmmm.
At Fauna Foundation, the chimps are spared such torture, but they are not spared from human ignorance. The average lifespan of the chimps at the sanctuary is 35.5 years old-this was the average age of death of the six chimps that have lived at the sanctuary and died there. According to Jane Goodall, wild chimps start to look old when they are about 40 years old, but live many more years longer. Captive chimps have lived as long as 70 years old-the most famous being Cheeta the chimp from the original Tarzan movies or 66 year old Grégoire that Jane Goodall rescued. So what is going on at Fauna Foundation?
Of course, the previous abuse of the chimps before arriving at the Foundation must have been very deleterious to their health and longevity prospects. However, my visit proved to me that it is not just their past catching up to them. Their present conditions are also very unhealthy. The usual causes of death at the sanctuary are heart attack, diabetes and stroke!!! Cardiovascular disease and diabetes are preventable, even reversible and caused by diet and lifestyle-read "The China Study" by Dr. Colin Campbell.
Our guide tearfully told us the story of Billy Jo who at the age of 36, on Valentine's day 2006, while playing with some of the human caretakers, just fell down and died on the spot of an "unforeseeable" (according to the sanctuary's veterinary) heart attack. Common, western society human diseases that are unheard of in wild chimp populations as well as very uncommon in non western human societies are killing the chimps. Just looking at them and comparing them to their wild counterparts, one can see they are obviously obese with potbellies.
Diet is definitely the culprit in this tragedy. The chimps are fed cooked EGGS (the cholesterol, fat and other nasty, artery clogging ingredients in them is not proper food for humans let alone chimps) everyday for their supposed "protein" requirements-when is the darn protein myth finally going to be busted once and for all?!!!
According to the Foundation's calendar, Tommy-a resident chimp, pictured above, loves "Quaker oatmeal, raisin bread, Yves tofu dogs and Sunny Delight, his favorite orange drink". A volunteer comes to cook for the chimps regularly. "Tom's favorite recipe is: Oatmeal with baked apples". The ingredients are apples, cinnamon, cocoa, brown sugar and cooked oatmeal.
During the visit, the chimps were fed colorful candies and two dozen eggs were boiling to be fed later. When my friend questioned if the artificial food colorants affected the chimps behavior as it does in human children, the answer given was that what was important for the Sanctuary was the chimp's quality of life-implying that the candies, in part, gave them a good quality of life. This statement really bothered me because the obvious anthropomorphizing of human desires, culture and addictions onto the chimps does not serve the chimps at all.
Chimps are primarily frugivorous animals. In the wild, at least 80% of chimps' daily calories-ie the vast majority of their calories, come from raw, whole, fresh, ripe and most importantly uncooked FRUIT, not tofu dogs, raisin bread and orange drinks! It is obvious that the caloronutrient ratio of these chimps, probably not even known by the caretakers of the Foundation, is definitely high fat as well as very stimulating with things such as cocoa, grains and salt-I wish they would consult www.nutridiary.com to confirm this. The fruits and veggies I saw were low calorie fare and low quantities to boot-five delicious apples is nothing compared to the quantities of fruit a chimp would eat in the wild. That's barely 400 calories from fruit!
BTW, there's plenty of protein in fruit, nor is there too much protein such as is found in eggs/animal products. Bonobo chimps live almost exclusively on fruit. Yes, Jane Goodall has reported that chimps have been witnessed to eat meat, especially other monkeys that compete for the fruit trees as well as other animal products such as termites. They have also been witnessed to cannibalize their own infants. Does this mean they need to eat meat or cannibalize their infants for their nutritional requirements? NO. This is just a symptom of the excessive environmental pressure they are under from humans who keep cutting down their trees that feed them.
Chimps have taught us so much about ourselves. As Jane Goodall has stated, they are in fact more successful than humans in important ways. They do not over breed. They do not destroy their environment. They deserve better.
Now, how do I get this message across to the Fauna Foundation so that changes can be made? Please, Fauna Foundation, feed the chimps a whole, fresh, ripe, raw, mostly organic, low fat raw vegan diet and you will be able to love and take care of Tommy for many more years. Or will Tommy and the others continue to be victims of human arrogance and ignorance?
Follow up on this blogpost. I received this response from Gloria Grow, the Founder of the Fauna Foundation:
Thank you Gloria and I will print your response on my blog!!! I am really encouraged by what you are saying. I still feel that an exclusively raw diet that is low in fat, even raw fat from nuts and seeds would be much more beneficial to the chimps. Please read "The 80/10/10 Diet" by Dr. Douglas Graham to understand how cooked food, especially grains with their high glycemic index and even raw fats when they exceed 10% of daily calories are very damaging, especially for diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
One of my conflicts, regarding the posting on my blog was precisely how to tell you. I wanted the message to be effective, yet not coercive because it is the chimps' lives that are at stake. When I talked about human arrogance and ignorance I was referring specifically to human's cultural biases, especially in favor of protein and cooking.
Again my sincere thanks for your prompt and reassuring response.
Marisa or Via as my web friends call me.
Date: Sat, 22 Aug 2009 08:47:25 -0400
It has recently come to my attention that you have put some information about the Chimpanzee residents of Fauna on your website. There are a number of inaccuracies on your website, that I feel need to be corrected.
It would be good if you would please contact me to clarify these errors. This way we could at least be sure to help you, or anyone who might read your website, understand, and know exactly what we do, and what is being done for the Chimpanzees living in our care.
Most important I feel, is to let you know, and your readers know, how very ill the Chimps were when they moved into Fauna, and how they have actually exceeded their expected lifetime, here with us.
The lifespan for captive Chimpanzees is nothing at all the same as their wild cousins, and this is a hard reality. We have not contributed to the deaths of the Chimpanzees here at Fauna, but in fact have extended their lives, with an amazing diet, of mostly fruits and vegetables. At Fauna, and other similar sanctuaries, it can cost up to $75.00 per day to care for a Chimpanzee. Our produce bill is approximately $1,200.00 per week, that is an enormous amount of produce, which includes, grapes, melons, mangoes, lemons, oranges, tangerines, bananas, (one chimp can eat up to 30 bananas a day if we let them) pineapple, blueberries, raspberries, kiwi, starfruit, passion fruit, figs, cherries, strawberries, pears, peaches, plums, and I know I am missing many. The vegetables we serve is as diverse as it can be here in Quebec.
We try to serve at least 20 different fruits and vegetables per day, giving the Chimps a lot of choice, and variety.
Almost all our produce is served raw, with the occasional cooked serving. Cooked food in a day amounts to about one cup, per Chimp. This includes, oatmeal, Basmati Rice, squash bake, etc. The reason we hire someone to cook for the Chimps, is so we can control the content of the ingredients.
Another daily food requirement for the Chimpanzees are the nuts and seeds. Again, our list is extensive. We buy and serve as many varieties as we can, in shell and out of shell. We serve almonds, pecans, filbert, walnut, pinenut, pistachios (one of Toms favourites), and many more, as well as many different seeds from pumpkin, sunflower, etc. Again, you would simply have to look at our budget and see where we spend the money.
The Chimps live a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, as do I. It is very rare an egg or dairy be included in their diet. It is true we do have a little 32 year old Capuchin monkey, and a Long Tailed Crabeating Macaque that do eat a boiled egg per day. When these eggs are prepared they are done in the chimphouse for the week. Our little Sophie, the Capuchin does not eat much at all and weighs 3 pounds, she does like to eat the yolk of the egg, and she drinks Ensure, and prefers her food cooked, she is missing most of her teeth.
The information you give about wild Chimpanzees is completely accurate, but you would need to be much more informed about Research Chimpanzees, and the extreme damage done to their bodies, including their hearts, and organs. We consult with a lot of different people on what to serve the Chimps, for their different health problems.
There are a number of studies we would be very willing to send to you, so you could become more informed, and as you say less ignorant about the issue. Along with that, some of the papers we have worked on, that speak about the emotional problems the Chimpanzees in captivity suffer from, and the things we do here at Fauna to help them heal. These papers would give you a lot of insight and information about caring for and truly helping such destroyed Chimpanzees.
I admit I was ignorant in letting certain information be put in our calendar, not realising how it could be misunderstood, but I can assure you I am not ignorant.
I would have appreciated an opportunity to have an intelligent conversation with you, before you wrote your story. I could have at least helped you with some factual corrections, so you would not look as though you did not know what you were doing.
In the beginning of your story, you say you thought a long time before writing, and you respect the work I am doing, but I feel that you could have shown me a little respect, by at least speaking with me first, and possibly asking me questions, and seeing for yourself what I do inside the chimphouse, and not listening to someone else's opinion.
I am hoping you will take the time to speak with me. I left you a message yesterday, and would like to clarify this as soon as possible. If we do not get this fixed, then you will be doing a great disservice to all Chimpanzees, and I am sure you want to help, and not hurt.
As do I.
Founder, Fauna Foundation
P.S. Gloria, if a chimp feels like eating 30 bananas a day, why not let him? Why ignore the chimp's natural instincts? Many humans have been known to eat 30 bananas a day, including myself. In fact, I am a member of a forum called exactly that "30 bananas a day." This is also what I refer to as arrogance and ignorance. Why do you think humans know more what a chimp should eat than a chimp does?
P.P.S. This is the next e-mail I wrote to Gloria the next day:
After receiving your reply, I've given more thought to how I could help you feed the chimps a more natural diet, closely mimicking what they would eat in the wild and I think I can help you save money too! I am completely willing to do this on a volunteer basis and would expect no remuneration whatsoever.
The 80/10/10 diet that I follow is basically a replica of the wild bonobo chimp diet, working under the paradigm that humans are cousins of chimps and other anthropoid apes. Our natural diet closely resembles theirs.
This diet has helped me recuperate from many ailments, as you can read from my first blogpost-How I became a raw vegan. I am very confident that it will help heal your chimp residents and even extend their lifespan further.
Please consider my offer, I am very serious.