Tag Archives: chimpanzee

All Things Vegan show notes: New Chimps, Inc. resident CJ and a report from YEA Camp

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I finally got last Tuesday’s show notes up and the show into iTunes:

Chimps, Inc.,  a Chimpanzee sanctuary in Central Oregon, welcomes new resident CJ.
And a report from YEA Camp!

In this episode, we talk with Marla O’Donnell of Chimps, Inc., a sanctuary in Central Oregon that shelters abused or abandoned chimpanzees that were part of the entertainment industry or pet trade. Chimps, Inc. recently took in a new resident, CJ, and Marla tells us CJ’s story and gives us an update on how she’s fitting in with her new family.

We also talk with Bend resident Heather Kennedy, fresh from her first year as a camp counselor at YEA Camp, a fun and enriching vegan leadership summer camp for teens. And Paul Seymour sings about what will happen, “When the World is Vegan.”

And, of course, we highlight the latest News from the Vegan Frontier, let you know about vegan related happenings in and around Central Oregon, and more!

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Great interview with Chimps, Inc. this morning about their new resident, CJ

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Great interview with Chimps, Inc. this morning about their new resident, CJ. Can’t wait to air it next Tuesday.

Tomorrow, another radio interview, and Tuesday’s show to finish up. A recruiter to talk to. And waiting: On grad school financial aid, for one.

And that is all, because I’m exhausted.

Non-profit week: Jane’s Journey, IgniteBend, SharePoint Saturday

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I’ve been out a couple of nights in a row. One evening at home tomorrow, then I’ll be out Friday for our SharePoint Saturday speaker’s dinner, and all day Saturday and into the evening for SharePoint Saturday and the related SharePint. I’m happy to have helped bring this non-profit tech event to Bend—I’m sure we’ll all have a good time and maybe learn some new things along the way.

Speaking of nonprofits, last night I went to see Jane Goodall in the movie theater, as I was given a ticket for a somewhat odd event where Dr. Goodall was supposed to be “live” in theaters across the country and then also screening a new documentary that was made about her (Jane’s Journey). Unfortunately, our theater was not at all full—there were maybe 30-50 people there? Of course, Dr. Goodall is going to be in Central Oregon in person next Saturday (October 8), so it may be that people who would be interested already had tickets to that.

They had a problem with the film and the audio within the 1st five minutes, so we missed the opening scene, some of which may have been “live” with Dr. Goodall. Once it got going, it wasn’t bad. I enjoyed the documentary. But by the time the interview came on it felt like we’d been there a little too long and the “live” portion was a little disjointed, with multiple awkward transitions. It may very well have been taped yesterday evening, but I doubt it was actually live, as various mismatching times were scheduled for showings in different time zones. All in all, I would have rather watched it in my own living room, but I appreciate that they were trying to make a big event of it in a somewhat unconventional way.

I enjoyed seeing the 45-year-old footage of Dr. Goodall as a teenager and her first year in Africa. She seemed so young and carefree then, frequently laughing and joking. She seems, now, to have the weight of the world on her shoulders, although she clearly has not lost her sense of humor.

One disconcerting thing I learned is that Dr. Goodall, a long-time vegetarian, helped start and supports a program that raises chicks to give to families for chicken farming—with the intention that poor families eat the chickens instead of hunting bush meat. Huh?! Why is one animal more important than the other? Why not give them the resources and teach them how to grow their own grains and vegetables so that they could live more healthfully on a plant-based diet?

Also, it was interesting to hear about the rift she’s had with her son over the years, and how even though he grew up in Gombe at her research station, he was scared of the chimpanzees and didn’t want to hang out there, and he became a commercial fisherman and then lobster exporter. Apparently, Dr. Goodall was upset about the live export of lobsters, but not about the fishing. Again, huh? Hearing Grub (Hugo Eric Louis)  speak about growing up, his conflicts with his mom, and his overall perspective was one of the most interesting part of the film. It doesn’t sound like he was a big fan of his step-father. It was nice to see that he’s now putting his efforts into saving the hippo habitat by trying to start eco-tourism there. I couldn’t help but get the feeling, though, that his mom is stepping in to help him out, to make sure that this venture succeeds, when maybe many others did not. That’s just the sense I got from the way the documentary was edited, but documentaries are not fact—they can be skewed to encourage people to think whatever the filmmakers want them to. So who knows the real story.

Tonight I skipped our VegNet potluck for once, and went to IgniteBend 7, which was great, as always. If you get a chance to go to an Ignite sometime, somewhere, around the world—don’t miss it. In the meantime, watch some past presentations online. Or you could watch mine.

How we treat our nearest relatives… Read: The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary & if in Bend, visit chimps-inc.org

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The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary, by Andrew Westoll

The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary, by Andrew Westoll

This weekend, I read The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary; A True Story of Resilience and Recovery. The title stuck out to me at the library the other day because I’ve always had a fascination with the great apes and because we were going to have a representative from Chimps, Inc., our local Chimp sanctuary, speak at an upcoming VegNet potluck. Shayla Scott from Chimps, Inc. did in fact give a great presentation to our group on June 22. It reminded me of the tremendous difference each person can make within their own sphere of influence. Chimps, Inc., in case you didn’t know, is bringing Dr. Jane Goodall back to Bend in October. I was fortunate enough to hear Jane speak when she was here a few years ago, and it was definitely a highlight for me, as she is one of my heroes. Now on my short list—visit Chimps, Inc.!

The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary is very engaging and easy to read, while not skirting around important ethical and legal issues, and I highly recommend it. I enjoyed it because not only does it tell the personal stories of the particular chimps that ended up at Fauna, as well as the story of the people behind Fauna and the author’s personal journey, but it also explores the bigger picture of the biomedical, circus, zoo, and space industries in the United States and worldwide, and the legislation that exists and is in process to govern when great apes are used and how they are treated. This book, of course, keeps most of the focus on captive chimpanzees, but the implication is that how we treat our animals extends to all animals used in research, circuses, zoos, and factory farms—not just the great apes.

A few months back I was reading about PTSD in elephants. The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary highlights that it happens to chimpanzees as well:

This paper, entitled “Building an Inner Sanctuary,” by Gay Bradshaw of the Kerulos Center, Theodora Capaldo and Lorin Lindner of NEAVS, and Gloria Grow, concerns two chimpanzees who spent more than a decade in a biomedical laboratory. It concludes that both chimps exhibit psychological symptoms of complex posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) consistent with those of humans who have suffered torture and imprisonment. In other words, the experiences chimpanzees go through in a typical biomedical laboratory render them as psychologically compromised as human victims of domestic violence or political and war prisoners.

A few of my favorite books about the great apes, that Westoll also has in his bibliography:

Next of Kin: My Conversations with Chimpanzees, by Roger Fouts

The Wauchula Woods Accord: Toward a New Understanding of Animals, by Charles Siebert

Writing about this book reminds me of why I am so interested in this topic. When I moved back to Bend in late 2001, I had been starting to forge a new path for myself. I had been taking multiple biology and zoology courses at the local community college, with the goal of supplementing my Writing and Literature degree with a Biology degree. I took a sign language course specifically so that if given the opportunity, I could communicate with or participate in cognitive studies with great apes. I was volunteering at Elkhorn Slough and becoming an avid birder. I also took several marine mammal courses at a research facility through Cal State, including a one-week internship in which we learned to communicate with and train captive California Sea Lions. I had an internship set up and ready to go with UC Santa Cruz at a lab that studied cognition in California Sea Lions and other marine mammals. I thought this is what I was going to do with the rest of my life.

But then life happened. My husband left, moving to Alaska. My best friend had moved far away to Northern California. The house we were renting was not affordable on my own, long-term, and then they decided to sell it. I would have had to move into something much smaller in a market not very favorable to the guardian of three cats or those not part of the dot-com bubble.  I made the difficult decision to move back to Bend (something I though I would never do after growing up here), to lick my wounds, as they were, in a place that was much more affordable (at the time) and where I had a few relatives. I immediately enrolled in the only biology course available to me at our local community college that semester—the others were few and far between. There was talk of developing a robust biology program. It never happened, as far as I know.

I had heard of Chimps, Inc., and The High Desert Museum—and figured that those were two places at which I would volunteer right away. But instead, I ended getting divorced, buying a house, and trying to figure out a new way to earn income that wasn’t tied to my small business and ex-husband. I continued birding and hiking for a while, but even that activity has faded away as a priority.

Even though my life took a turn away from where I had imagined it going, I still have a keen interest in animal behavior and cognition and the growing field of cognitive ethology. I read avidly on the subject and also in the related fields of animals welfare and veganism. A lot of literature covers these interrelated topics and I will continue to learn, explore, and figure out where I can make a difference in my small sphere.

Nonviolence: Zinn, MLK, The Holocaust, and Great Apes

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Bonobo play

Bonobo play: image from http://naturendanger.canalblog.com

Today I sat in on our local college’s, Day of Zinn, a celebration of the life and ideas of Howard Zinn. The theme this year was Nonviolence. I wasn’t able to attend all of the talks, but I did catch some of them. The roughly 15-minute time slots included talks on the violence on our plates (animals, factory farming, etc.), a reading from holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel’s speech regarding the consequences of indifference to what is happening in the world, readings from Martin Luther King’s speeches, personal stories of prejudice, tragedy, and secrets within a family, and a talk by a Bonobo researcher and anthropology instructor.

I was very interested to hear the talk by Michel Waller, the Bonobo researcher. He gave a short presentation on some of his research and did some comparisons of Chimpanzee versus Bonobo culture. (Now, I’m not an anthropologist, so forgive me if I’ve summarized any of this incorrectly, as I failed to take notes and am commenting on this from memory.) The Chimpanzee culture was very male dominant: all of the males were related and all of the females were not. Infanticide, murder, and other forms of violent aggression existed in the Chimpanzee culture and not in the Bonobo culture. The interesting thing about the Bonobo culture (outside of their socio-sexual behaviors, which I understand to mean that they use sex between everybody and anybody as a means of social lubrication and strengthening community) is that their culture is female dominant: all of the females were related and all of the males were not. As a result, the Bonobo males, unlike the Chimpanzee males, were not constantly trying to expand their territories by killing the neighboring males and infants, and then incorporating the females into their circle. Additionally, where the Bonobos live, they have access to readily available and abundant food sources, whereas the Chimpanzees do not. So the Bonobos do not have the drive to expand their territories for that reason either, whereas the Chimpanzees are constantly at risk of not having enough food. And because the Bonobos have plenty of food, they also have the luxury of sharing, which is rarely observed in Chimpanzee culture.

Bonobo family

Bonobo family: image from http://naturendanger.canalblog.com

What does this mean for humans and the chance of creating a nonviolent society? It seems that human cultures reflect a mix of both Chimpanzee and Bonobo cultures. Yes, we tend to act out violently in struggles over resources. But at the same time we are very cooperative. And since violence is not completely determined by biology, and in fact is very culturally determined, then our cultural conditions can have a great influence on our behavior. The key component is resources—and in particular—food. If we put our efforts into feeding everyone, we might very well reduce violence significantly. It sounds good in theory, anyway.

Another study that I was hoping Waller would mention was that of Robert Sapolsky’s peaceful Baboons. He brought this up near the end of the presentation. If you have not heard of Sapolsky or this story, I encourage you to read Sapolsky’s A Primate’s Memoir or read some of his online work. For a fun introduction, listen to this Radio Lab episode. (I had the pleasure of attending a book reading by Sapolsky in California once—he is a very funny man and a great storyteller).

Anyway, the gist of the story is that a Baboon troop that Sapolsky had been studying for years suddenly lost most of the highly aggressive males to bovine tuberculosis, contracted through their continuous raids of a garage pit located adjacent to a tourist lodge. This resulted in a change to the gender composition of the troop, leaving mostly females. Within years, troop behavior had changed dramatically; males became significantly less aggressive. And the change has remained for decades: Males raised with the troop are gentler, and as new males join the troop, they are encouraged to comply with the new social norm, or the are not allowed to stay.

This is another example that raises hope for a nonviolent human society—cultures can change, and they can change rather quickly.

Baboons on rock

Baboon family: picture by Charles J Sharp, from Wikipedia

Another interesting tidbit from Waller’s talk: Somebody asked him if he saw any differences in the diets of Chimpanzees versus Bonobos, for instance, did Bonobos eat a completely plant-based diet? He stated that no, both species ate meat, and both species hunted: In the case of the Bonobos, it was the females who did the hunting. However, he said that meat is a very small part of their diet, from 5-10%. Which is interesting, because I just read in Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat that “Meat makes up only 3 or 4% of a typical chimpanzee’s diet, and even the most voracious chimpanzee meat-eaters only average a couple of ounces a day.” Whichever statistic is correct, it is still a relatively small portion.