Toby was a big, warm-hearted chimpanzee. He spent most of his time with Rachel, Chance, and his caregivers. To our dismay Toby passed away of a sudden heart attack in October 2017. Prior to this, he had shown symptoms of heart-related issues, as do most males in captivity over the age of 30.
Toby had been brought to St.Félicien Zoo to be a friend for another chimpanzee named Benji, who had been rejected by his mother, Samba. The two boys were handled frequently by their caregivers — bringing them home, dressing them up in clothes, and then also using them as attractions at the zoo. This kind of rearing for young chimpanzees dramatically affects them once they no longer can be out of their cages yet have created such a strong bond with their human caregivers. Toby was incredibly attached to humans which certainly put him at a disadvantage with the other chimps once he arrived at Fauna. He was complex and complicated. It was very difficult seeing him try to manage the two worlds. Toby loved humans and became someone every visitor, volunteer or new employee quickly bonded with.
Toby arrived at Fauna in 2002 after having lost his entire family. First his mother, then a year later his brother. After the loss of his brother he moved to Fauna. So much trauma in so little time, combined with the fact that he had to leave his home of many years and the people he knew so well, was difficult for Toby. In those first days after he arrived here, he was curled up in a ball, almost as if he was ready to give up. We didn’t want to introduce him to new friends too quickly, not knowing how he would be with them.
When we finally decided to introduce him to Donna Rae and Sue Ellen, whom seemed to be the most sensible choices for this fellow, they quite literally saved Toby’s life. When the door between them was opened, he ran into their arms and hugged and kissed them and hugged them again. He did not stop and he would not let them go. He needed their love, support and friendship immediately! And they gave it. It was the most beautiful moment.
He had great friendships with the girls of Fauna. As Sue Ellen got older and became too frail for him, he spent most of his time with Petra, Chance, Rachel, and Maya.
Toby’s life in the zoo, which was a rather disgusting environment, left him with some serious physical ailments. The building he slept in and spent most winters was cold dark, unheated, and very wet. He had cold steel bars to sleep on and barely any sun except for the short summer in North Québec. He was seriously arthritic and could not walk well at all. He could barely extend his legs. It had an impact on his digits too. Although we gave him medication for pain, it was clear he still had difficulty.
Toby spent most of his days at Fauna in the warmth of the sun or laying up high on the wooden structures. He loved to be with friends, but sometimes he would go off to be on his own. He liked going on the boardwalks on the islands and taking naps in the little wooden structures. Spending time with Toby often meant sitting and relaxing, grooming, and applying lotion to his huge hands. He will be forever greatly missed