Compassionate Care for Chimpanzees

Fauna has an aging population of chimpanzees. The average age of death for captive and wild chimpanzees is 32 years. Fauna currently has five residents who are already well beyond these averages. Dolly and Sue Ellen celebrated their 52nd birthdays this year and Tatu, Maya and Loulis are 44, 42 and 41. They are our geriatric population and require very special, individualized care. Our five youngest, Rachel, Chance, Regis, Jethro and Binky are all now in their 30’s. They are also approaching their geriatric years. Thus, care that adjusts to the dynamic aspect of aging is a growing part of our caregiving mandate. We strive to make improvements and adaptations based on the needs of our residents.

Sue Ellen Overcomes her Limitations

As many of you know, Sue Ellen lost the use of her legs more than a year ago. While we have no exact diagnosis for her condition, we continue to consult and update our team of expert chimpanzee vets to ensure Sue Ellen is receiving what is best for her changing condition. Although she is physically challenged, Sue Ellen’s sprits remain high. She takes advantage of everything the caregivers offer her to help overcome her limitations. One of the enclosure enhancements that the Fauna team implemented this summer is a series of ropes and hanging apparatus in the skywalks that she can use to aid in her movement.

This summer we have seen great improvement in Sue Ellen’s mobility and indications that she is regaining partial strength in her legs. As you can see in the above video from August, she now propels herself through the skywalks, using her arms and upper body. She is lifting her legs off the ground while just a year ago when she moved like this, she had to drag her legs beneath her. Her strength has improved significantly, and she is mastering this new way of moving, allowing her the dignity to make more choices in her daily activities.

At the time of this writing she is now “crutchwalking”, which means she is no longer using the straps to pull herself, but rather, is propelling herself forward using her hands. This demonstrates a huge improvement in her core streght. The improvement in the last few weeks has been incredibly “uplifting” for not only Sue Ellen, but for the staff as well. The extra care and attention over these many months is what has allowed Sue Ellen to improve and the rewards of seeing her improve are vast.

Comfort and Dignity for Petra

Two of the guiding principles for care at Fauna are comfort and dignity. Comfort is increasingly important with an aging population. During the weeks of Petra’s palliative care, the Fauna team did everything possible to make her days comfortable.

Fauna Foundation's Chimpanzee, Petra
Petra enjoys a fruit jucie served to her by one of her caregivers. Photo © 2019 NJ Wight


While the work is emotional and difficult, the intense care for each individual has a bright side. For Petra in her last days, she appreciated so many of the efforts made by her caregivers. They made sure she had a soft, comfortable bed with lots of blankets and they provided a light, cooling mist when she was having overheated moments. One-on-one visits were consistent with friends quietly sitting with her and ensuring she had her favourite things to drink and eat or patiently grooming. She had the very best of care to see her through to her end of life.


Fauna animal caregiver, Laurence ensures Petra has lots of blankets and her favourite foods.


Each chimpanzee has unique needs, both physical and emotional. We will continue to adapt and change as our aging population does. We are so very grateful to our wonderful supporters for their encouragement and financial support. Your generous donations enable us to ensure the highest standard of care for the Fauna chimpanzees. Thank you.

You Can Help Provide Compassionate Care for Chimpanzees

October 15th is Giving Day for Apes, and fundraising is underway for this global day of giving in support of great apes. Please consider making a donation to Fauna during this very important fundraising event. Your donations help qualify Fauna for additional fundrasing prizes. To donate or find out more information, visit: Giving Day for Apes.