Friday, May 22, 2009

Make Wenka’s Birthday Gift the Promise of Sanctuary

Release and Restitution for Chimpanzees in U.S. Laboratories

Make Wenka’s Birthday Gift the Promise of Sanctuary
Wenka is a frail 55-year-old chimpanzee, held at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta. Born on May 20, 1959, Wenka has been in a laboratory for more than five decades - an unimaginable amount of time to live in concrete and steel. She deserves the comfort and safety of sanctuary before her time runs out.
Your immediate help is needed to secure Wenka’s release, along with all the other elders in captivity who have been in a lab for 40 years or more. Many have spent their entire lives in a lab enduring multiple procedures or being repeatedly “bred” to make more babies for research. Read more...

Please let your voice be heard on her special day
1. Sign the petition asking for the release of Wenka and all other elder chimpanzees into sanctuary.
2. Email the President of Emory University, Dr. James W. Wagner. Ask him to use his power to see to the immediate release of Wenka and any cage companions she might be fortunate enough to have (this detail of her life is unknown), as well as all the other elder chimpanzees now held at Yerkes, into permanent sanctuary. Allow them to enjoy their remaining years, months, or even weeks in the relative peace and freedom of sanctuary before they die.
3. Pass this information on to family and friends, add it to your blog and/or social networking pages - help us get the word out about Wenka and the other elders now before it's too late.

Wenka's story
Wenka (Lab ID #170) was born in the first dedicated chimpanzee lab in Orange Park, Florida, the predecessor to the Yerkes National Primate Research Center (Yerkes) in Atlanta, on May 21, 1954. On the very day of her birth, she was taken from her mother to a dark room where she was cared for by humans while participating in a nystagmus and fixation vision study until October 1955 when she was 17 months old.
Family TreeWenka’s parents were Web and Banka. Web was born in the Orange Park lab on January 16, 1943 to Wendy and Bokar (Wenka’s paternal grandparents). Wendy, her grandmother, was one of the first four chimpanzees bought by Robert Yerkes from an animal dealer in Africa. She died of a stroke in 1971. (Read more about the beginning of chimpanzee research in the U.S.) Bokar came from Africa in 1930, fathered 40 offspring, and died during an experiment in 1960.
Banka was born in the Orange Park lab on January 28, 1941, and died when she was mistakenly poisoned on September 25, 1956. Banka’s parents (Wenka’s maternal grandparents) were Bimba and Frank. Bimba came from Africa in 1930 and died from dysentery on December 13, 1944. Frank was purchased from a laboratory at Johns Hopkins in 1933. He was used in a morphine addiction experiment and died on November 22, 1946.
Her Human FamilyIn late 1955, when she was around 17 months old, Wenka was sold as “a pet” to a human family in North Carolina to be raised. At age 3, Wenka was permanently returned to Yerkes on April 19, 1957, when she became too big for the family to handle. It was unusual for her to have survived that trauma since many cross-reared infants die when they are removed from their human families.
Baby JamaWenka gave birth six times between 1966 and 1977. Wenka’s use in research includes alcohol, oral contraceptive, aging and cognitive studies. More...

A personal account from a former laboratory caregiver (anonymous)
...In some ways, she fell into the category of a chimpanzee desperately seeking love from the one source she remembered as a child, but I think if I met her now, some of my impressions would be different, having known more chimpanzees since then.
My most prominent memory of her other than her age is her hands. She had beautiful hands. Her fingers were long and delicate, her palms fragile, and they seemed to perfectly represent her sweet and passive nature. Yet there was a part of her that had lived long enough, she knew the system and tried her best to make it work to her advantage. Read more...

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