One week from today, we will celebrate Negra’s 40th birthday and CSNW’s 5 year anniversary. Due to incomplete lab records, we don’t know Negra’s actual date of birth. To honor her status as the Queen of the Cle Elum Seven, we celebrate her birthday on June 13, the anniversary of the chimpanzees’ arrival to the sanctuary.
Negra is the oldest of the seven chimps here, and it’s easy to tell by looking at her. She is rounder than the other chimps and moves a lot slower. While they’re playing energetic games of chase, she can often be found wrapped in a blanket gazing out the window. Negra has the wisdom and dignity that often come with age. It’s for this reason that we call her our Queen.
One of the things I love most about Negra is that she doesn’t settle. She demands what she thinks she deserves and doesn’t give up until she gets it. Usually, what she thinks she deserves is her night bag, a nightly post-dinner treat of nuts and seeds in a small paper bag. She loves night bags so much that often, mid-dinner service, she claps her hands together imperiously as if to say, “I’ll take that night bag NOW, please.”
This photo was taken when Negra and the rest of the Cle Elum Seven were en route to CSNW from the laboratory five years ago. I often wonder what Negra was thinking sitting in her cage on the transport truck, leaving over three decades of research labs behind. Of course, she couldn’t have known during that cross-country drive that those days were in the past.
I’d like to think that she started to understand that her life was changing shortly after arriving at the sanctuary. This photo was taken on June 13, 2008, just hours after the transport truck carrying the chimpanzees pulled into our driveway. Negra and the others took turns in front of this window. In the lab they had lived in a windowless basement, so it’s likely that she was seeing outside for the first time in many years, maybe decades.
The next two photos were taken this morning, almost exactly five years later. Negra spent the morning foraging for fruit and sitting in the grass on Young’s Hill, the chimps’ two-acre outdoor habitat. I don’t know if Negra will ever get used to the feel of the cool grass under her feet or the sight of the blue sky overhead, but I think that she finally knows that her past is history.
Next Thursday, June 13, please join us for Give Five Day. By donating just $5, you’ll pay for one meal for one of the chimpanzees, show your love for Negra and the others, and enable us to keep serving seven incredible survivors.