Happy Birthday, June-born friends! June is a particularly special month at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest and it’s full to the brim with birthdays and anniversaries. Cherished celebrations that you make possible and that we celebrate you for in return.
Historically, June has been about Queen Negra and the arrival anniversary of her group to the sanctuary. On June 13, 2008, after over 30 years in biomedical research, Negra, along with her group-mates, Annie, Burrito, Foxie, Jamie, Jody and Missy, arrived home. So much hard work went into making their new life possible. It often feels like a spell of abundance and love was cast over the sanctuary that day and thanks to you, our amazing extended chimpanzee family, it has only continued to grow and blossom in so many ways. Ways perhaps not even dreamed of at that time. What *was* known is that June 13th was henceforth going to be celebrated as Negra’s honorary birthday and her and her friends beginning of a second chance at their lives.
Negra is turning 49 this month! Just look at her!
Now, fourteen years later we find ourselves also celebrating not only the first anniversary of welcoming Cy, Rayne, Dora, Lucky, Gordo, and Terry home on June 26th, but the additional birthdays of Dora (who turns 33 on June 6th):
Honey B (who turns 33 on June 11th):
and Terry (who shares a June 13th birthday with Negra and is turning 32)!
Which brings me to the next news reminder that this year we will be celebrating June 13th as “The Trifecta Jubilee.” If you are signed up for our e-newsletter you may recall that the name of the celebration was submitted by supporter Kathleen Corby and chosen as the winner of the naming contest because it reflects the triple celebration of Negra’s birthday, the arrival anniversary of the first group of chimpanzees, and Terry’s birthday. Stay tuned for how you can help celebrate this special day. Not subscribed to our e-news yet? You can do that here!
And I have one more exciting June birthday celebration to share with you all! If you’ve been following the sanctuary for some time, you most likely remember our beloved (though sometimes terrifying) wildish elk friend, Ellie (our name for her before realizing she was more widely known in the community as Buttons). Ellie lives at Woodland Park Zoo now and it’s my understanding that they’ve chosen June 10th to celebrate Ellie/Buttons and her honorary birthday! Click here to read more about her new life and see a short video of her!:
Ellie’s/Buttons’s story is a classic tale of what happens when (despite the best of intentions) a wild animal becomes habituated to humans. Though this story has the rare exception that thanks to a community of professionals and neighbors who love her, the outcome is a happy ending.
As some of you may recall, when Ellie was eventually removed from the community by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists for her and everyone’s safety, attempts to integrate her with wild herds in the area proved unsuccessful. WDFW worked hard to find the best solution for Ellie and thankfully she was eventually accepted into a forever home at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle in March of 2019. We held our hopeful breath that this would be a successful situation for her, but couldn’t help but worry. We’ve checked in on her through visits and communication with her caregivers, but we hadn’t been able to see her since the start of the pandemic.
Much to my delight, I recently had the wonderful opportunity to visit her at the zoo and speak with her caregiver and it makes my heart SING to be able to say that she is not only doing well, she is thriving! She’s adjusted well and finally has a tiny herd to call her own, choosing to spend much of her time with the handsome bull of the herd, Goodwyn, while enjoying bossing around (in typical Ellie-style) the two other females of the group, Willow and Lily (who are Roosevelt elk, while Ellie and Goodwyn are Rocky Mountain elk).
The Living Northwest Trail habitat where they live is beautifully wooded, green and peaceful with plenty of space to be out of view if they choose. But if you know Ellie, part of her will probably always gravitate toward visits with the human herd she spent the first many years of her life interacting with. Her caregivers adore her and while we all would have loved to see her thriving in her natural wild-born life, the truth is that for Ellie, I cannot think of a better place for her to live out her life. She’s in an environment more closely resembling that of the elk-appropriate life she was meant for that still meets her unique needs for well-being, safety, and occasional safe interactions with her human friends.
(Photo credit: John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo)
(Photo credit: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo)
We are profoundly thankful to Scott McCorquodale of WDFW and Woodland Park Zoo for going above and beyond to create a solution for her, with extra heartfelt gratitude for her caregivers for loving and caring for her as the special individual she is and providing her with such a wonderful home.
I want to impress that Ellie’s/Button’s story is very special and this is unfortunately not how the story ends for the majority of wild animals who have become too comfortable around humans. I won’t lie, the privilege of unexpectedly sharing our lives with Ellie as she came and went throughout the community over the years will forever be one of the most magical and cherished experiences in my heart. I sincerely love her (even when she was scaring the holy heck out of us). But I’d trade it all without hesitation if she could have lived the wild life she was intended to. Because that was her right and in her best interest.
I have a heart full of wonder and reverence for the invaluable gift that sharing our lives with wild animals and their spaces is and because of Ellie (and the chimpanzees) a deepened respect for how incredibly important it is to do everything we can to keep wildlife wild and in their rightful lives. And when needed, to utilize the help of licensed wildlife rehabilitators before that small window of opportunity for the animal closes. Ellie, just like every animal, wild or otherwise, is a special and unique individual. Won’t it be incredible if her story continues to inspire and create different outcomes for other wild animals who find themselves in similar situations?
Jamie and Ellie/Buttons:
Happiest of birthdays to beloved Negra, Dora, Ellie/Buttons, Honey B, Terry and you, our wonderful human friends!!