Author Archives: rachel

in memoriam

Working in a biomedical research lab means that we have witnessed animals that we have spent time observing, caring for, befriending, and loving become ill or injured (as a result of research protocols or due to the rigors of laboratory life) or die of natural or unnatural causes. Sometimes their deaths haunt us for years. On this page, we honor the memories of those we have lost. Please email Rachel Weiss ( if you’d like to contribute a memorial to this page.


In memory of Annie Chimpanzee (1960-2002). She began her life in Africa. She spent her younger years in entertainment, and then ended up at the Primate Foundation of Arizona (PFA). She was later leased and finally sold to the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP). She served in the breeding program there and had the dubious distinction of being the first successfully artificially inseminated chimpanzee. She gave birth to a daughter named Wotoni, who now lives at PFA.

After years of life in the laboratory, she was finally given permanent retirement to the Fauna Foundation in Quebec, Canada. She immediately became the matriarch of the group and the beloved mother figure to the chimpanzees as well as the humans at Fauna. She had the strength, the stubbornness, and the courage that her tough life had forced into her, but her body couldn’t fight as hard as her will.

Her years in research caught up with her on January 10th, 2002. Her loss will be felt for years to come.


In loving memory of Atlanta Chimpanzee, 1965-2000. Atlanta Chimpanzee was the first chimpanzee born in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. She spent her entire life at Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center, the last 16 years of which she was a well-loved member of a large social group of chimpanzees. Her wisdom, patience, and guidance were a positive influence on her family and friends. She had an enormous love of food, which unfortunately led to extreme obesity. Her body eventually succumbed to crippling osteoarthritis. Despite best attempts to treat her condition, Atlanta died on December 21, 2000. She is survived by a son, Rhett, and granddaughter Azalea. Those who knew her mourn her departure from this earth, but celebrate that she is finally free.


Butterfly was a rhesus born at Yerkes in 1984. Although her family never had high rank in her group, whenever any of her family memberswere in trouble or being attacked by others, she would ALWAYS step up and take action. There were numerous times when we would come in, and she would have a new wound or “skin-flap” on her back from protecting her family. Family truly meant the world to her (couldn’t us humans learn something about that these days!). Butterfly always had the most beautiful children. Rhesus typically range from a blonde to grey coat color, and although Butterfly never had much fur, her children were born with the reddest coats you could ever imagine – her kids stood out from the rest. At times, we would run her in so that we could get a look at her new infant – and she never hesitated to let us know that she did not appreciate us at all, but once all was said and done, she was ok with us – if we brought her a peanut butter sandwich. Butterfly had a number of human friends – who were quick to recognize when she was getting thin or ill. And these same friends always took time out of their day, to fix her a peanut butter sandwich or anything that she really liked, to try and help keep her weight up. Butterfly, you will be sorely missed by your friends and family – including your human friends. We’ll never forget you and your love for family.

Fred Astaire

Fred Astaire, a very dark colored uniquely handsome chimp in his late twenties, did not cope well in biomedical research. Years of research and being singly housed left him depressed and emotionally challenged to the point of exhibiting self-directed, destructive behaviors similar to those that can occur among institutionalized humans. On a regular basis, Fred would bite chunks out of his forearm. This caused him to need medication to reduce his anxiety. There were times when I would visit him that I couldn’t even coax him to come to the front of the cage for a hello and a rub. He would just lie in the back of his tiny cage and look at you, as if he had given up on life and humanity.

Towards the end of my time working with him, Fred was moved to a brighter unit and out of the thick subway-grating cage with limited visibility that he was regularly housed in. His new caretaker and I tried to provide more social and physical contact for him through our visits as did one of our volunteers since he was still caged alone. Though the volunteer was only there a few times a month, her visits with Fred would last nearly one half hour. He started to respond. It seemed as if he was harming himself less. He even played a bit during some visits and began to solicit attention more often. We were hopeful that his medication could be reduced at some point. He needed more than just a “drive by” visit, which is what caretakers are often limited to due to their workload. Though most of the chimps there were singly housed, Fred was particularly fragile.

I so wished that Fred Astaire would make it out to retirement somewhere. In a sanctuary, his problems could be worked with more intensely, progress could be made, and his preciousness could be appreciated. It’s usually impossible to completely undo such psychological damage but delicate animals like Fred need to be given that chance to heal. But Fred Astaire did not dance his way into retirement; he ended up in yet another research facility – the Coulston Foundation – where he died within two years.


Gogo was one of the 46 chimps being retired from the Baxter lab in Austria. He even made the move to the wonderful new primate establishment, H.O.P.E (Home of Primates Europe) in the middle of a forest in north east Austria. He died before even enjoying the relative freedom of the indoor living area that I had helped constuct for him.

I first met Gogo inside the lab where he, years before, had been infected with the hepititis C virus. He was the first of the 46 chimps to offer me a kiss. Being very selective about which carers he liked and didn’t like, I felt tremendously flattered that I counted amongst those that he was fond of. I, in turn, was extremely fond of him, and we shared much time together.

Gogo became ill in the early winter of 2002. He lost all his energy and often had fever. He trembled when he moved and was obviously experiencing alot of pain. The vets from the University of Vienna were mystified and ran all possible tests on him. At one point it was thought that he may have had a slipped disk.

The move out of the lab was stressful for Gogo. He had his friend and cell mate Carmen with him who was extremely protective towards him. Gogo died in his sleeping room at 7pm on January 17th 2003. His post-mortem revealed that he had suffered from Osteomyelitis in his spine.

Our exciting retirement project continues, but with a very important person missing.


In loving memory of Hef, a sweet and gentle guy that I think of often. Hope you are in a better place now, Hef.


Homer was a cynomolgous macaque born and raised at Wake Forest University. Her mother rejected her as an infant, and one of the vet techs cared for her. He would take her with him on his morning rounds, and would often let her down to play at the pond that was in the center of the research grounds. Once she became an adult, she was placed into a couple of research studies. She began to get sick a lot, after going on the studies, and eventually developed severe bone loss. I can’t remember if she was euthanized, or died on her own, but I do know that she is greatly missed by those who truly cared about her. I’ll never forget her face.


In memory of Jersey Rhesus Monkey, 1998-1999. Jersey was a sweet, gentle monkey who never showed anything but trust and kindness towards humans. She was killed on July 20, 1999 at Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center because she had diarrhea. Her brief life will not be forgotten.


In loving memory of little Lightweight, the pigtail macaque who captured so many hearts, including that of his rhesus monkey friend Vera Wang. He had a fighting spirit and a friendly, outgoing personality. He also had chronic diarrhea, and was killed on August 29, 2001 after 17 months of life. Lightweight, in our hearts we know it’s better that you did not suffer a long life in biomedical research, but we miss you anyway.


In honor of Michael, a strong, handsome pigtail macaque who was shuffled from place to place until he finally came into his own as the alpha male of a group of other pigtails. It’s as good a life as a monkey can get in a research institution – but then it was all snatched away. Michael was sold to the CDC, caged alone and destined for cruel experimentation. He died of his own accord before that could happen. Good for you, Michael. I’m only sorry that you had to die alone in a cold steel cage, instead of in the company of other monkeys.


In memory of Nexus rhesus macaque – a sweet girl who lived 3 hard, tough years. Taken from her mother in the first month of life, she lived the next two years alone in a cage; no family, no friends. In her second year of life she was given a chance of returning to her family and making new friends. Those who thought her life mattered tried desperately to integrate her back into her family group. Because of the years of social deprivation, she was left with no social skills and the group just didn’t understand her; they refused her entry. She endured many battles, many lost. She was removed and sent back into a cage. She was killed within a year for biomedical research. No creature should have to suffer in this way. Thank you Tabasco and Quad for your acceptance of Nexus – your care mattered.


For Pablo (1970-2001). Pablo Chimpanzee was born in Africa, spent some years in entertainment where his teeth were pulled and filed, was briefly at the University of Oklahoma where he was called P.B., then was sold to the Laboratory for Experimental Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP). Pablo’s life in the lab was filled with anxiety. He was referred to as a ‘hard core research animal’ at LEMSIP. He never took a needle, and was darted for each of his 220 knockdowns. He was hysterical at the sight of medical equipment and would thrash around his cage and cause himself to hyperventilate.

He spent 6 years at the Buckshire Corporation and when he was returned to LEMSIP, he was injected with 10,000 times the infectious dose of HIV. He was retired to the Fauna Foundation sanctuary in Quebec, Canada when LEMSIP closed down in 1997. He never tested positive for HIV, but his use and abuse in the laboratory marked his body in other ways.

He died on October 6th, 2001 at 31 years of age. His internal body was riddled with adhesions, scars, and infection. The pathologist couldn’t believe he had lived as long as he had.

Pablo lived for two things in life: food and friends. At Fauna he found both of these in plentitude and his last four years were spent eating, playing, and gazing at the female chimpanzees. He deserved so much more. We at Fauna will miss his giant lips, his throaty laugh, and his infectious food grunts.

Pasquale and Cinqua

Monkeys Rpq and Rcq – named Pasquale and Cinqua by their caretakers – were juvenile Rhesus macaques. They’d been infected with SIV, which causes AIDS in macaques. When I knew Pasquale and Cinqua, they lived alone in 4 sq. ft. stainless steel cages in Yerkes’ Virology Building, in a windowless room filled with other macaques in identical cages. Among all of the monkeys I watched succumb to AIDS, Pasquale and Cinqua both stand out in my memory because of what they went through while I was their caretaker.

Pasquale was an anxious individual, and highly skeptical of humans. He was underweight, and his hair was always rough. But what was most striking about him was the incessant blood and mucosy discharge that ran from his nose – it never stopped, and was accepted by the research and veterinary staffs as an acceptable consequence of his SIV infection.

Cinqua was a handsome fellow, and was calm and cooperative. For several frightening days, he went through an unexplained period of blindness. The vets suggested a brain tumor, and were beginning to consider his euthanasia, when his sight returned.

It was hard to know Pasquale and Cinqua well. They lived in a building with over 150 other monkeys, and it was my duty to care for them all in the course of a day. I assume that these boys have passed away by now. It’s been about six years since I knew them; SIV infected macaques generally succumb to disease very quickly. They were just kids, who never learned what it was to be a monkey, and only what it was to be a biomedical research subject. While these individuals were unique, their stories are not.


Girlfriend, I’m sorry it’s taken me years to write your memorial. I still just cannot believe that you’re gone. What a leader, friend and sister you would have been if you’d had the chance to get free of that dungeon. Your calm demeanor, your wicked sense of humor, your communication skills, and your boundless intelligence – all wasted in that tiny, wet cell. ‘Berta, I’d so hoped to see you again someday – strong and content, and confident of your choices, the way a chimpanzee was meant to live. Rest in peace.


This is dedicated in loving memory to Sonia Chimpanzee who was euthanized on June 5, 2001 at the age of 42, while in organ failure. Sonia was a gentle chimpanzee soul whose black face and silver back made her look like a small gorilla. She spent her final days in a 5x5x7 cage, instead of with her daughter and grandaughter who loved her dearly and may still wonder if she will ever return to them.

Life was not particularly kind to Sonia. Her early history is unclear. It is likely that she was captured as an infant in Africa in the late 1950s, ripped from the breast of her murdered mother. She spent some time in New Mexico, where she had a son whose fate is unknown. She was later transferred to Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center, where she lived out her existence inside concrete and steel,never knowing much about grass or trees. She had an easygoing personality, showing little hostility to the humans who forced this existence upon her.

Sonia is survived by her children Barbara, Amos, and Jonathon, and grandchildren Winston, Kevin, and Abby. She left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of those who cared for her and we gain comfort from knowing that at least now, she is free.


In loving memory of Tupa Orangutan, 1958(?)-1998. Tupa Orangutan was wild caught as an infant in Sumatra sometime in the late 1950s. She was acquired by Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center in 1963, and spent her long life in a barren concrete enclosure. Tupa was an intelligent, strong-willed, feisty orangutan, and a gentle, tolerant mate to her final companion Minyak. Many of her companions and offspring now live in better conditions in zoos across the United States, but sadly Tupa was not among them. She died at Yerkes on December 18, 1998 from pneumonia related to chronic air sacculitis. She is believed to be survived by three of her nine children, Biji, Rusa, and Busar. Those who loved her hope that her spirit is back in the forests of Sumatra where she always belonged.


In memory of the thousands of newborn monkeys that are taken from their mothers. Deprived of warmth, care and mother’s love, they are forced to live in a steel cage, where they die. No mother to sleep against, no mother to suckle, no mother to comfort them when they are sick with the diseases they are infected with. They die alone.


Wonton (1978-1997) was a wonderful father and group leader and was one of the most magnificent rhesus macaques anyone could know. During many of the years of his life, he lived with three other females in a small enclosure. As a resident at a breeding facility, his ‘job’ was to father as many children as possible. All of his children, as is status quo, were taken away and sent to research.

Wonton was known for lunging at and trying to grab the various technicians as they walked by. There were likely various reasons for this – those were the people who took his children away and taunted him because they thought it was a game. However, those who treated him with kindness and respect were treated the same in return.

Wonton was another who fell through the cracks when he did not receive appropriate veterinary care one weekend. We held a funeral and buried him – it was the least we could do for him. We were told that burying him was against the rules; he was a ‘biohazard.’ Each one of the nonhuman primates who are forced to live in research and breeding institutions aren’t biohazards; they are mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers and friends who will be missed very much. Wonton is no exception.


Zahlia Bonobo lived at Yerkes with her mate Kidogo and their son Makanza. They lived in two tiny cells (one indoor and one outdoor) at Yerkes’ Main Center. Makanza was just a baby when I knew them; Zahlia was not so fond of humans, but tolerated us. She was very tough but not mean, and called all the shots in their little family; every once in a while she let me touch one of her baby’s toes.

Zahlia and her family had the opportunity to leave the lab (where they were not being used for research) and go live with others of their species in more spacious quarters at a zoo in Wisconsin. After their departure we had word that Zahlia had died of asphyxiation in her travel box (it is not uncommon for nonhuman great apes to die in this manner, if they are not properly monitored while under anesthetic); Makanza was in the box with her.


For Zelly, a beautiful rhesus macaque with a strawberry colored face. A loving mother who died a horrible, painful, death. She was forced to live in a place where people often took her family and friends away. Because of this, the social system of the group was unnaturally perturbed — and some other rhesus macaques brutally killed her and two of her children along with other family members. Behavior unheard of in the wild but all too familiar in labs. Zelly, Cello, Sylvia, MadDog, Elk, Tinker, may you be forever free.