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From Ghastly to Glowing: Jamie the Chimp Is Happily Adjusting to Life Outside the Lab

From Ghastly to Glowing: Jamie the Chimp Is Happily Adjusting to Life Outside the Lab

Written by Debbie Metzler, M.S., Advocacy Coordinator

After she was born, Jamie was stolen from her mother and raised in an unnatural environment. She was forced to wear costumes and perform for people to laugh at. Despite this, she created a connection with the group she lived in, and wanted to be like them. When she was still just a child, only 9-years-old, she was imprisoned for a crime she didn’t commit. No law would save her, and no defender would protect her. As if being in prison wasn’t enough, she was regularly put under anesthesia, used as a guinea pig for medical vaccines, and when the tests were over she was shut back in her prison block until the next round of research would begin. Jamie lived in this prison for over two decades.

What happened to Jamie is shocking. No human should ever be treated this way or have to live through these circumstances. But Jamie is a chimpanzee. She was raised in a human household and used in entertainment. When she became too strong, she was sold into biomedical research and used in testing until she was rescued by Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest in 2008.

Jamie is the smartest primate you’ll ever meet. She is constantly working on projects, is always aware of what everyone in her group is doing, and she is very socially manipulative. Jamie identifies with the humans a lot, probably because she was raised in a human environment. But sadly, for Jamie and for all captive chimpanzees, she simply cannot live in the human world. Chimpanzees are just too strong and willful to be safe in a human environment. They are territorial and they bite when they feel threatened. So Jamie now lives in the chimpanzee world, but she still relates to and socializes with her human caregivers.

Jamie seems to be very aware of her captivity. While many other captive chimpanzees appear to accept their life for what it is, Jamie wishes for more. Keeping her mind engaged is something that caregivers are constantly trying to do, but happily accept the challenge. We can’t ever make up for what was taken from Jamie, but we can try to give her a good life now.

After six years in sanctuary, Jamie has transformed both physically and psychologically. When she and the other chimpanzees in her group arrived from the lab, they looked and acted like ghosts of themselves. Today, Jamie takes daily territorial patrols of her two-acre outdoor enclosure. She plays fun games of chase with her chimpanzee friends and enjoys boots and flipping through magazines. She delights in eating pears and oranges and loves to forage for food in hard-­to-­reach spots. She appreciates a good challenge. She climbs over structures and likes to take in the view­ such a simple pleasure she was denied for decades.

It is difficult to imagine how Jamie survived the years of boredom and fear in biomedical research, and it is heartbreaking knowing how many chimpanzees are still being held in laboratories. Every captive chimpanzee deserves a defender. Every captive chimpanzee deserves caregivers who strive to give them the best life possible where they can enjoy the feeling of sun on their backs and grass under their feet and learn what it means to be a chimpanzee.

Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest provides sanctuary to chimpanzees discarded from the entertainment and biomedical testing industries. The sanctuary also works to empower individuals to create change for apes in need everywhere through their advocacy program, Eyes on Apes. For more information, visit www.EyesOnApes.org and www.ChimpsNW.org.

Debbie Metzler has a masters degree in psychology and primate behavior and she has worked as a caregiver at chimpanzee sanctuaries for nearly a decade. When shes not spending time keeping chimpanzees happy and enriched, Debbie is working on advocacy and educating the public about the plight of captive and free­living apes.

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All photos courtesy of Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest.

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175 comments

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7:22AM PDT on Sep 10, 2014

I am crying for Jamie and all the other animals who are forced to endure these horrible experiments and testing!
I am so sorry that she had to wait over 29 years to enjoy just being a chimp! I pray
her remaining years last a long time, because she has a lot of time to make up for when she was locked up!

7:36AM PDT on Aug 15, 2014

So many of the stories on this site are so heartbreaking. This poor animal and others like her don't deserve this. I don't know who in their right mind would want to pick a profession that they go to work everyday and experiment on animals, causing them pain, and torturing them. These have to be sadistic people. On top of that I am sure they are getting a great paycheck to do their jobs. I think these people are sick, and I don't understand how they can even like or love their jobs.

I hope Jamie and other chimps like her will live out their new lives in peace and never experience any harm again.

9:30AM PDT on Jul 22, 2014

Six years later, Jamie thrives. as does Jody Negra Burrito Missy Annie Foxie, I am forever grateful to all the staff at CSNW who have ever worked in serving the chimps and to those who still work there,
The Chimps arrived June 13,2008 ,, they were pale, skinny, frightened, and wondering what this new place would be like. It was bigger, it smelled clean and no one wanted to poke or prod them or make them breed to produce babies for research, Instead they were spoken to softly, and caringly, From that day onwards... . . their lives CHANGE Dramatically, today the chimps continue to EAT, jump, run, climb, EXPLORE Young's Hill, 2 acre enrichment area of trees, termite mound, structure, sky walks, and lush green tall grass, Sure its not the wilds of Africa, but its a good life of excellent care and freedom from any further exploitation or suffering, Life for the CE~7 if grand,

5:36PM PDT on Jul 21, 2014

What terrible pain and suffering is inflicted on many animals by so called humans who are nothing more than sadistic depraved morons. I am so delighted to see the immense change in Jamie after receiving care and love. What an incredible being to recover from all she has been through.

5:59PM PDT on Jul 5, 2014

What a major transformation. She looked close to death in the original picture and in the second picture she looks healthy and happy. How can people treat animals in that way and live with their conscience.

6:00PM PDT on Jun 27, 2014

My best wishes for a good life. Lets think about the other ones still suffering.

4:43PM PDT on Jun 24, 2014

Terrific that she gets a chance to be a chimp and not an experiment.

1:14PM PDT on Jun 24, 2014

So sad.

11:50AM PDT on Jun 24, 2014

good news

10:24AM PDT on Jun 24, 2014

I just don't see how anyone could hurt an animal, in the name of research, or any other way. Just look into those eyes!

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