Posted in 16/02/2019
By Patti Ragan, Center for the Great Apes
Dear CGA Members and Friends,
The hardest letter I ever have to write is that of notifying our members and supporters of the loss of one of our precious great ape residents. I am deeply sorry to tell you the sad news that our beloved and beautiful chimpanzee Katie passed away very recently.
She was found in her nest of blankets early in the morning when her caregiver opened up her nighthouse. Pathology tests are still pending, but it is suspected that Katie passed away suddenly from heart disease. For the past few years, Katie had been in good health, so this was very unexpected and a shock for all of us.
Katie came to us six years ago at age 18 after spending her life inside a tiny cage in a New Jersey house. When she arrived, she had many health challenges, fears, and eating disorders. But over the years with good nutrition, space to exercise, social companionship with other chimpanzees, and a dedicated group of caregivers who spent a great deal of time helping her, Katie’s health greatly improved. She looked beautiful with her skin condition healed, her sparse hair beautifully filled in, and her emaciated condition changed to a healthy weight for an adult female.
And Katie’s confidence and social skills also grew as she became more self-assured. At the beginning, she was afraid of other chimpanzees…she wouldn’t allow anyone (including her caregivers) to touch her (even the tips of her fingers)…she was afraid of water… and she wouldn’t step onto the ground, especially not on grass! But with patience and gradual exposure, Katie learned to live with and love her chimpanzee companions, be groomed by others, willingly participate in health checks with her caregivers and the vet staff, and even play in sprinklers.
The most meaningful and important part of Katie’s life at the sanctuary was her introduction to other chimpanzees (Murray, Casey, Mickey, and Daisy). While her beloved companion Murray was her first and favorite friend, this past year she and Murray were introduced to the three youngsters who arrived a year ago – Hannah, Kenzy, and Bentley. Katie especially loved little Bentley, and a wonderful moment in the introductions was when Bentley (who at first was afraid of Katie) finally allowed her to hug him. She was a happy girl with her large new nighthouse, her best friend Murray, and her three new young companions. Katie knew that she was loved and cared for. And, she finally had a chimp family!
Our staff and volunteers are heartbroken over the loss of Katie, but we know that we must continue on for all the others here who also matter so, so much. Katie’s life at the sanctuary was in a nurturing environment surrounded by apes and people who loved her. For that, I am deeply grateful. And, I’m grateful too for our staff’s compassionate and professional care and the genuine love they have for our great ape residents.
Thank you for your support which helps us to make our apes’ lives better. With gratitude and in loving memory of our dearest Katie.