Friday, October 14, 2011

Our Precious Grub at the Center for Great Apes

Losing one of our great ape residents is the hardest and saddest part of our work in providing sanctuary care for them. This week, our hearts are breaking with the loss of our first chimpanzee resident at the Center for Great Apes - our precious Grub.
Grub was the most wonderful chimpanzee and had many fans and friends, both chimp and human. He passed Tuesday in my arms after a sudden illness that was advanced and terminal. He was 20 years old.
While I know that Grub is not suffering and is out of pain now, my grief comes from a sense of great loss in not having him physically in our lives anymore. But I realize that all the wonderful qualities and intelligence expressed by Grub...along with the joy and sweetness he brought to others... are always in our thoughts and memories and did not pass away with him.
Today, still in the blur of tears and sadness, I want to remember the happiest part of Grub's life and the things that made Grub such a special and dear fellow.Grub, Christopher and Pongo
Grub has been in my care since he was 12 weeks old, when he arrived at a Miami tourist attraction in 1991 where I was already volunteering to care for infant orangutan Pongo. As I helped to take care of several infant apes there, I became more aware of issues around the retirement of hand-raised apes used in entertainment and also as pets. It was Pongo and Grub (and concern for their future) who provided the impetus to start a sanctuary for orangutans and chimpanzees coming out of these situations.
It is because of Grub that over 30 chimpanzees have had a home at our sanctuary over the past 18 years.
Grub and Noelle
Grub and Kenya
Grub grew up with Kenya (now 18), Noelle (17) and Toddy (39). Two years ago, former Hollywood performer Mowgli (12) joined this group and became Grub's best male friend. Grub has lived and played with other chimpanzees here too - Brooks, Angel, Kodua and just recently, Chipper. But, Noelle and Grub had a special bond, and they spent many hours in play and grooming sessions.
His most amazing relationship was with our young handicapped chimpanzee, Knuckles, who arrived at the Center nearly 10 years ago Knuckles with Grubwhen he Knuckles and Grubwas two years old. Knuckles had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and had difficulty walking. Grub, Kenya and Noelle all accepted Knuckles into their group for limited playtimes. Grub was the most gentle with him and seemed to be fully aware of his limitations and specialness. However, when Mowgli joined the group, he was not so gentle with Knuckles and would playfully try to poke him or pull Knuckles' hair through the wire mess when Knuckles visited Grub's group. But, Grub would keep an eye on Mowgli, and if he saw that Mowgli was getting to rambunctious with Knuckles, Grub would either gently put his hand on Mowgli's arm to stop him...or give him a stern eye to warn Mowgli not to touch Knuckles.
Grub and Golden Retriever JoeGrub's gentle nature was also evident in his love of dogs. As a youngster, Grub grew up around several dogs that lived at the tourist attraction. He giggled in games of chase with the dogs and would be "over the moon" when they licked his face! As he grew in strength, we had to limit his direct contact for the safety of the dogs. Grub had a golden retriever friend in Wauchula (Joe) who was the happy recipient of monkey chow biscuits that Grub would toss to him... and then play "chase" as Joe ran around the outside of Grub's habitat.
Grub painting
While Grub was a well-known chimpanzee artist (once featured on the NBC Today Show) and loved to paint, the most striking activity that most people will remember him for was his penchant Grub and Jane Goodallfor mask-making. He learned to make masks when a volunteer in Miami, made one for him from a paper plate when he was only three years old. He didn't want to wear it...he wanted her to put it on. From that one time, watching the volunteer tear out eye holes, he began to experiment with paper bags, cereal boxes, wrapping paper...and when he couldn't find paper in his habitat, he would pick up fallen leaves and m ake tiny masks from those. His joy seemed to be in presenting these "Grub-masks" to visitors at the Center and watching them wear the masks. In fact, he made a beautiful mask from a red cereal box for Jane Goodall when she visited him in 2005. I will miss those special gifts from Grubby.
Grub making a mask
In mourning the loss of Grub, we also must celebrate his life and continue to provide a home with quality care for the other 43 chimpanzees and orangutans who are here at the Center large part because of Grub.
I am grateful to all the caregivers, staff, board members, and volunteers who have helped provide Grub and his chimpanzee family with a happy life at the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula.
I am also very thankful for all our members and supporters who help make this all possible each year for EVERY great ape at the sanctuary.
With love and in memory of our dearest Grub,
If you would like to make a contribution in memory of Grub, please click here.
Your donation will help continue the care for his chimp family and orangutan friends
and is greatly appreciated.

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