Jamie spent her childhood living in a human home, and like all chimps who begin their lives in human homes, she quickly grew too strong and unmanageable. Jamie was sold to a research lab when she was about nine years old, and spent the next 22 years in hepatitis vaccine trials and possibly other invasive studies.
Jamie is one of the lucky ones. When she was 31, she was “retired” from research and moved to Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest. Chimpanzees who have lived with and around humans often pick up human habits and interests – Jamie files her nails, ties knots, and loves (and sometimes wears) boots. Jamie is different from the chimpanzees you see behaving like humans in movies and on TV; those chimps are trained – brutally – to perform and are often duct-taped into their clothes. At the sanctuary, Jamie chooses the objects she likes from the various enrichment items we provide each day and she does what she wants with them: nests with them, plays with them, ignores them, destroys them, or wears them.
A few days ago we had a visitor whose beautiful boots Jamie was clearly obsessed with. In a moment of overwhelming generosity, our visitor left Jamie the boots she came in with and walked out of the sanctuary barefoot. Jamie couldn’t resist giving her new boots a test run.