In Negra’s alternate life – the one she should have had – she was born in the wilds of Africa, enjoyed a long, lazy childhood by her mother’s side, spent her days traveling with her group, climbing trees, and playing with friends, and grew up to have and raise her own babies and grandbabies.
In Negra’s actual life, she was born in the wilds of Africa, captured as an infant – probably after watching her family shot to make her capture possible – and shipped to the United States to be used as a research subject. She spent her days alone in metal cages no larger than a bathroom stall and experienced the world through filters of boredom, fear, pain, and loneliness. She had three babies in a five year span, all of whom were taken away from her within days or hours of birth, never to be seen or touched again.
Negra was about 35 years old when she stepped out of her last lab cage and into her new home at the sanctuary. That was a little over eight years ago. I sometimes wonder if there is some equation to represent the value of sanctuary to Negra and the others. Does one day in sanctuary cancel out one day in the lab? We can only hope.
Negra shouldn’t be here. She deserved to be wild and free. But her lot in life was determined by forces out of her hands, and out of ours. All we can do, and what we must do, is infuse her imperfect life with as much love and warmth and joy and comfort (and blankets and peanuts and sunshine) as we can, and then root for her as she steps toward recovery.