Did you know that chimpanzees and humans have more than 98% of common genes?
Did you also know that chimpanzees and humans are genetically more related than chimpanzees and gorillas?
And did you know that just outside of Montreal, in the suburb of Carignan, exists a sanctuary where chimps are being taken care of?
Fauna Foundation is a refuge for animals that have been mistreated and/or rescued from zoos, labs and other entertainment or agriculture industries.
Seven of the eleven chimps there come from biomedical research in the US. They were used in invasive studies, including HIV research (which means some of them are infected with HIV). Before arriving at Fauna, their lives were limited to 5x5x7 feet cages.
Some, like Blackie and Dolly, lived at Parc Safari for over 4 decades. And the others, Tatu and Loulis, came from a Chimpanzee & Human Communication Institute in the US, which is now closed, and where they learned to use American Sign Language! They currently still use Sign Language with Dr Mary-Lee Jensvold, a Primate Communication Scientist who works at Fauna, and other caregivers who know ASL.
When chimpanzees arrive at the sanctuary, they’re in bad shape. Their mental health is quite fragile: some start plucking their own hair while others suffer from an important post traumatic stress disorder along with self-abuse.
Chance, one of the females, couldn’t even stand on the floor when she arrived…
The devoted and passionate employees of Fauna are guardian angels and make sure the chimps” arrival is as smooth as possible. They welcome the chimps with their favorite foods and objects in order to avoid an overwhelming or too drastic transition. Then, they set a healthy routine bit by bit for these new residents.
We had the privilege to visit the sanctuary last Summer to learn more about Fauna’s mission but also the destiny of its dwellers. Dr Jensvold and all the team really ease the lives of the animals living there. If the beginning of their existence wasn’t fun and free, Fauna makes sure the rest of it is filled with happiness, good care and love.
Doctor Mary Lee Jensvold
Dr Jensvold was the director of the Chimpanzee & Human Communication Institute in Ellensburg (WA) before it closed. She was also an Associate Professor in Primate Behavior and Anthropology at Central Washington University. She has worked with two of Fauna’s chimps (Tatu and Loulis) before they arrived here in 2013. She pursued teaching for a year at the university before coming to Fauna full time, back to her friends Loulis and Tatu.
Funny story: she told me Tatu was kind of angry that she was abandoned for a year… so she wouldn’t « speak » to her when she came to the sanctuary in 2014. Fortunately, everything’s back to normal now!
Chimps and juices!
Almost a year ago, before our visit, and even before we even knew about Fauna’s Foundation, we realized the refuge was buying many of our juices on a regular basis and it tickled our curiosity. We contacted the people working there and that’s how we learned that one of their chimpanzees, Tatu, drinks DOSE juice every day!
We simply couldn’t believe it!
They told us Tatu, like the others had a whole food diet, primarily vegan. However she had a few digestive problems and so drinking DOSE was a way to make sure she had an excellent nutrition. She loves our juices and has 2 per day! Can you believe that?
Moved by Fauna’s mandate and its chimps, we decided to get involved and now freely provide Tatu with our juices.
I would like to thank Mary Lee Jensvold for her precious time and generosity. Also, thank you to and all the amazing team at Fauna for doing such an inspiring and noble job.
Dr Jensvold believes we, humans, have a lot to learn from chimpanzees, such as our place in nature and the importance of humility. We couldn’t agree more.
If you want to help the foundation, click here
They are always in need of volunteers, donations, etc.