I spend more time with the Cle Elum Seven chimpanzees than I do with most people in my life. I know them as the curious, playful, independent, opinionated individuals that sanctuary has allowed them to become.
I did not know Annie, Burrito, Foxie, Jamie, Jody, Missy, and Negra in their former lives as lab subjects, when they were mere shadows of their current selves. I often wonder how the vibrant personalities I know so well survived decades of trauma, boredom, fear, and loss.
There’s little doubt that life in a research lab is nearly unbearable for any chimpanzee (or, one could argue, for any living, feeling creature). It’s not surprising that many of them give up. But many others make it out the other side, and are able to rediscover their sense of joy and wonder, and their fighting spirit.
Here at the sanctuary, Jamie epitomizes “fighting spirit.” Despite being one of the youngest chimps in the group, she has appointed herself leader, and she runs the show. She demands the utmost respect from both her chimp and human family, and she gets it. If she wants something, she doesn’t wait and hope – she makes it happen. She is brilliant, difficult, fierce, and exacting, and we could not love or admire her more.
Due to incomplete lab records, we don’t know Jamie’s date of birth, so we celebrate her each year on Halloween (in loving tribute to her endearingly wicked nature). Our Jamie-ween party is always completely over the top (as it should be). This year’s party promises to be no different. Be sure to check back tomorrow for photos and/or video from Jamie’s birthday party, and in the meantime, here are some of my favorite photos of Jamie from birthdays past: