“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” – Christopher Reeve
Petra was intelligent, strong willed and often misunderstood by humans. She was adored by many, commanding a certain respect from her friends. She had shiny eyes and a beautiful freckled face with white wispy hairs that frame it. Her trademark string of keys could always be found around her neck. This is something she copied from her early caregivers.
Petra was highly intelligent. She knew what was going on at all times, highly aware of her environment, and loved to have her way. She was the Queen of the Chimp House and was well respected by everyone. Her loyalty to her family was unmatched. Petra was independent and straightforward, yet sensitive and vulnerable at the same time. Easily bored, she often ate her emotions.
Petra showed remarkable leadership skills through her techniques of handling her chimpanzee brothers. When they became aroused or frustrated she often distracted them by tickling them under the chin or slapping their backs. She would always greet you with a head nod in the morning.
Petra taught us so much about the challenges of captive life. More than anyone, she was able to communicate her feelings. This was especially helpful in the beginning for us to understand the problems she and her family faced.
Petra knew she shouldn’t be locked up! From the day she moved in, and from those first years of her life, she wanted the keys to get out. She understood… and hated it. Not a day passed at Fauna where she didn’t remember to check the locks or try to fit her keys into the holes of all the locks. Although Petra could not speak or use sign language to express her feelings, that simple act of trying to get a key in a lock said more than anything.
Her strong will and character were misunderstood for many years. She was only nine when she came to Fauna as a tiny, little anorexic girl. She was traumatized, mistreated, frightened and going insane. Life in a sanctuary saved her — but the effects of her tragic beginnings always lingered.
Petra found a coping tool and it was not the healthiest for her: She found great comfort in food. Petra used food for coping with her life. Often the smartest chimps find consolation in eating, filling a void of sorts. As full as her life was in captivity and as much as she took advantage of all her space, and loved her family and new friends, there was always the past that forever marked her life and her soul.
Petra was a remarkable chimpanzee — born in a cage in New York State, pulled from her birth mother, raised by humans and then abandoned by them too. Forced to endure unimaginable torture of body and mind, it is no wonder why Petra struggled daily. What her life should have been is something we all know. She somehow sensed that it was all wrong… and she was right!