Today marks five years since Washoe, the first nonhuman to use a human language, passed away in Ellensburg (just 25 minutes from Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest where the Cle Elum Seven live). Like Negra, Annie, and possibly Jody, Washoe was captured from Africa. She was supposed to be used in the space program, but when that didn’t work out, she was instead the center of a language project. Now we know that captivity is never a good place for chimpanzees. When Washoe became too strong to handle, she had to live in a cage for the rest of her years. Sadly, that is the fate of any captive chimpanzeeâ€”those living as pets or used in entertainment will eventually have to be imprisoned for a crime they didnâ€™t commit because they simply are not meant to live in a human world. Biomedical chimpanzees are already in cages, some no bigger than a coat closet.
I first started working with Washoe and her family in 2005 as a college student. She taught me humility and to take everyone on their own terms, and she blurred the line between animals and humans. The way I see the world and my place in it has definitely changed forever—it was because of her that I realized how amazing these beings are and became a chimpanzee advocate. I met the Cle Elum Seven shortly after they came to CSNW in 2008, and was moved at how resilient and forgiving they were after everything theyâ€™ve been through. Annie, Burrito, Foxie, Jamie, Jody, Missy, and Negra have been an inspiration. They have been through so much, yet they still find time to laugh and play. They can finally walk outside with sun overhead and grass under their feetâ€”something we definitely take for granted. I canâ€™t imagine living my entire life inside bars and I am so proud of the Cle Elum Seven for how brave they have become in the last four years. I know it is our duty to give them and all other captive chimps a good life. We took them from their natural and rightful environment from the forests of Africa, stuck them in cages, bred them, and exploited them for a cheap laugh or invasive research, all without regard to how they are just like you or me. They are beings who deserve to be taken on their terms, treated as equalsâ€”not forced to perform on TV or be injected with viruses because of humans believing they are superior.
Letâ€™s speak up for captive chimps. Letâ€™s release them from biomedical research. Letâ€™s get companies and productions to stop using chimpanzees in their advertisements or movies. Since we can never return them to Africa, letâ€™s at least give them a better life in a sanctuary where they can be taken on their terms, treated not as lesser beings but where their needs are of the utmost importance.
Help 100 chimpanzees get to a sanctuary by signing this petitionâ€”we need 1,250 more signatures to reach our goal of 5000! Write a letter to this TV show that teaches kids itâ€™s OK to have a pet chimp. And donâ€™t forget to join our Take Action: Eyes on Apes list to stay up-to-date on issues and action alerts!