Today’s day of sanctuary was sponsored by Meg Lunnum in memory of Bill and Ziggy, the two chimpanzees who resided at Sequoia Park Zoo in Eureka, California, for over 50 years. Meg is a long-time friend and supporter of all the primates (and bat population!) at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest and does so much to care for, and educate others about, these special beings. Meg came to know of Bill and Ziggy while living in Eureka and she continued to follow their lives. She wishes to honor Bill and Ziggy today and share their history and memory with others.
Bill spent his childhood as a performer in a famous circus in Europe in the 1940’s, at one point performing for the Queen of England. At approximately the age of 11, Bill moved to the United States with his “trainer.” Bill became increasingly unsafe to handle and after a performance in Eureka, a discussion between a local reporter and Bill’s trainer led to Bill being purchased by the school children of Eureka for $300 so that he could retire at the Sequoia Park Zoo. Bill lived to be one of the oldest known chimpanzees in captivity and was believed to be at least 62 at the time of his death on June 26, 2007.
Ziggy spent his childhood performing in night clubs until he inevitably grew too strong for his “owner” to manage. In 1963, the city of Eureka rescued Ziggy from an animal shelter in the hopes he could live with Bill. Unfortunately, Bill and Ziggy were not able to be safely housed together and they lived in separate enclosures next to each other. Ziggy passed away in 1996 at the age of 40.
I could not locate a photograph of Ziggy, but here is handsome Bill :
Meg also wished to share some information about the zoo’s tribute to Bill and Ziggy since their passing:
“Bill’s former exhibit has been converted into a tribute garden in honor of Bill and Ziggy. The garden features two fountains where their night quarters once were and a bronze statue of Bill stands between them along with his rope swing above. The paths of the garden are lined with bricks inscribed with special messages to Bill and Ziggy and to other loved ones within the community and Bill’s ashes were placed under the engraved bricks.
On the walls are the stories and photographs of the lives of these remarkable chimpanzees as well as the 100-year history of the Sequoia Park Zoo. Bill’s Garden is a special corner of the zoo where patrons reflect, reminisce and appreciate the story of these two animals who shared their lives with the community.”
Meg’s gift of sanctuary for the chimpanzees is one that is particularly dear to my heart. While their heartbreaking histories are not particularly unique to apes in captivity, Bill and Ziggy were the first chimpanzees I had the privilege to meet and I grew up visiting them throughout my childhood. Even as a very young child, as special as it felt to visit Bill and Ziggy, it was so clear to me that they were meant for different lives and I felt helpless witnessing the lack of human understanding that surrounded them at the time. I couldn’t be more thrilled to see their memory honored today. And I am so grateful for the growing awareness of the amazing individuals chimpanzees (and all animals) are and the progress and understanding we all continue to gain so that they may all one day live the lives they are meant to.
Meg, thank you so very much for remembering these special guys and for giving the chimpanzees a special day in their honor! We are so grateful to you for all you do to make the world a better place for the special beings we share it with.