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Chimp who was caged for entire life captured seeing sky for the first time

Ben Thompson

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| Last updated 

Chimp who was caged for entire life captured seeing sky for the first time

Featured Image Credit: Save The Chimps

This incredibly heartwarming footage shows the moment a chimpanzee saw the open sky for the first time after spending her entire life in a cage.

Vanilla the chimp had been raised in New York's infamous Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP).

Vanilla had lived in the notorious lab for two years until it closed in 1997.

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The primate was sent, alongside other chimps, to a refuge in California where she stayed until 2019. That year, however, the refuge - which was threatened by wildfires - went out of business.

But last year, arrangements were made by the refuge to fly Vanilla and her cohort to a new home in the Sunshine State of Florida.

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Save the Chimps' primatologist Dr. Andrew Halloran said: "In California, Vanilla lived with a handful of chimps inside a chain-link fence cage with no grass and very little enrichment."

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Footage of Vanilla staring up in awe at the open sky was shared at Friday’s American Society of Primatologists symposium in Reno by Halloran.

In the heartwarming footage, Vanilla can be see staring up at the sky in true awe.

Vanilla will be sharing her new island refuge with 225 other chimpanzees discarded from laboratories, the entertainment industry, the exotic pet trade and roadside zoos.

Many of the residents have previously endured solitary confinement and never interacted with their own kind before.

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Fortunately, Vanilla is settling into her new home well.

Halloran said: "Vanilla is settling in very well. When she’s not exploring the island with her friends, she can usually be found perched atop a three-story climbing platform surveying her new world."

Vanilla was left in shock when she saw the sky for the first time. Credit: Save The Chimps
Vanilla was left in shock when she saw the sky for the first time. Credit: Save The Chimps

Each chimp is assigned to one of 12 island communities within the refuge, with Halloran assessing who belongs in which one based on their personality.

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Vanilla is reportedly settling in well on her island, and has already developed a close bond with alpha male Dwight - who can be seen hugging her in the video.

Halloran said: "She gets along with all of the other 18 chimps on her island and has a particularly playful relationship with the alpha male Dwight — from whom she steals food."

The use of chimpanzees in medical testing has been a controversial subject for decades.

In 2013, the US and Gabon were the only two countries that used the apes in medical experiments, although their use is in decline.

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1,200 chimpanzees were subjected to lab experimentation in 2011, dropping to less than 700 in 2016.

Topics: Community, Animals, US News

Ben Thompson
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