November 30, 1982 – January 7, 2024
Rachel had soulful eyes filled with forgiveness and longing for human interaction despite her years of abandonment. She had a very strong and solid build but a soft touch when grooming. She was never without her stuffed gorilla “babies.”
Rachel loved interacting with her caregivers. She could spend hours grooming and playing chase with them. She often engaged caregivers by throwing objects while lying on her back, things like paper cups. Her lifetime of captivity has plagued her with some stereotypical behaviors. She could often be found shaking her head or over-grooming her nails. It was a unique challenge for caregivers to get her out of this obsessive behavior when it happened, and sometimes there wasn’t much they can do but let it ride out. Receptive, responsive, delicate, fragile, available, uncomplicated, sensible and sensitive, Rachel was always loving towards her family.
Rachel was born at the infamous Dr. Lemmon’s compound in Norman, Oklahoma. This is the same place where so many chimpanzees we know of today were born. Spock, Maya, Sophie, Tatu, and many, many others were born there. Rachel was just one of the many babies born at that facility where every one of them was stolen from her mothers. Many of them were then placed in homes with some of Dr. Lemmon’s psychiatric patients.
As most of the babies reached a certain age, their personalities changed and they could no longer live in the homes they had grown up in. In Rachel’s case, her adoptive mother gave her up for personal reasons to Laboratory for Experimental and Surgery in Primates at three and a half years old. She, like many other people who gave or sold their chimpanzees to LEMSIP, believed that Rachel would not be harmed. She was told or understood that the Rachel would be given some of the same things they had grown used to over the years and that Rachel would have a chance to be a mother.
Now we know that chimpanzees are not meant to be pets or companions to humans and doing such desperate things can have terrible consequences. Perhaps well-meaning, Rachel’s human mother could not know the real future that laid ahead for her chimpanzee child. And, so sad for Rachel, the promises made were not kept. With no one checking on her to see how she was doing, the lab was able to do whatever they wanted to her.
Rachel was tortured, abused, isolated and tormented by her years in the lab. Rachel really was going crazy and had so many emotional problems. Since she came to Fauna in 1997, Rachel’s life in sanctuary was not always been peaceful. She was tormented inside and could not escape her past or her fears, but she tried and has succeeded in making a life for herself and for those she loved, including her stuffed baby gorillas that she took with her everywhere.
Rachel’s life at Fauna was both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Her abandonment issues, her stress from being locked up after being free for her early years, and having a human mother figure rather than a chimpanzee mom, all took their toll on beautiful Rachel. She was diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) which has extended through adulthood. Because of this, medication was helpful for Rachel’s health and well-being.
Rachel was a social chimpanzee; she needed and loved to be with the others. She had strong bonds to her family group — those she has been at Fauna with since 1997 — and she had a deep and loving relationship with her chosen friend, Toby, before his passing. Toby arrived here in 2002 as a lonely, frightened and very sad guy. His relationship with Rachel was a warm and loving one. Their friendship was strong, solid and satisfying. They complemented each other and shared special moments.
Rest in Peace dear Rachel.
Read the announcement here.