Given the economic crisis and the shortage of jobs in this country, this sentence is going to sound pretty crazy:
I hope that I will be out of a job someday.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my job. Why wouldn’t I? I get to spend my day enriching and taking care of an amazing group of chimpanzees, and I get to advocate and help educate people about the plight of chimpanzees everywhere. Plus I work with an amazing group of people—staff and volunteers alike. But we all hope for the day that we are no longer needed, because that would mean there were no more chimpanzees in captivity.
I don’t see this happening in our lifetimes, but it would be amazing to see that day. Chimpanzees do not belong in captivity. Sanctuaries only exist because of the terrible situations that our closest relatives have had to endure. After the biomedical industry is done with them, or they become too large and violent to be used in entertainment or held as a pet, they need somewhere to go. They can never be returned to the wild—they don’t have the skills needed to survive. So for the remainder of their lives, sanctuaries are dedicated to providing quality care to these beings that don’t deserve to be where they are. It’s also why we are against intentional breeding, because it simply isn’t fair to bring a baby chimpanzee into a human world.
I always have this in the back of my mind when I walk around the hill with Jamie or play chase with Missy, Burrito, and Foxie, or groom with Annie, Jody, and Negra. As humans we take our freedoms for granted. At the end of the day we can hop on a plane and go to Hawaii if we want, or go visit our families, or just take a road trip across the country to see the sights. Chimpanzees in sanctuaries are there for life. So, you can imagine we feel that it is our duty to make sure they have the best lives possible. Offering them a clean home, lots of enrichment and blankets, and good food and friendship are so important. CSNW is amazing sanctuary and I am so proud of the work we do, but it’s still captivity. Sanctuaries are the lesser of two evils.
It’s not an entirely selfless job. Like I said, I get to hang out with an amazing group of chimpanzees and humans, and it feels pretty great to see the chimps smiling during a wild game of chase or tug-o-war. I never tire of seeing them out on the hill, foraging like they would if they were in the wild, protecting their home from deer or horses or elk because that’s what chimps do, or just taking a stroll (or run!) because they can. It’s a good feeling. So, caregivers do get a huge reward from their work. And I wouldn’t trade this job for anything, even if it’s true that one day I hope I’m not needed anymore.