Rest in Peace, Knuckles 1999 – 2021

Posted in 23/11/2021

Knuckles (CGA)

By Patti Ragan, from Center for Great Apes

Losing one of our great ape residents is the most difficult part of our work. This week, our hearts are breaking with the loss of our precious “special needs” chimpanzee, Knuckles.

Knuckles was a true inspiration and one of the sanctuary’s true miracles. Everyone loved him. He thrived in sanctuary care and was a symbol of survival.

Born at a California entertainment facility to a chimpanzee named Boma, it was immediately clear that Knuckles had serious physical challenges. Doctors at the pediatric unit at UCLA diagnosed his condition as cerebral palsy. Due to the severity of the cerebral palsy, he was not expected to live very long. When we were asked to care for Knuckles here, I knew it would be a huge emotional risk to accept him knowing that we may only have a few years with him… but we wanted to give him the best care and as enriched a life as possible during those “few” years.

Knuckles arrived at the Center for Great Apes in 2002 when he was 2 years old. With the devotion, love, and support of the CGA staff and volunteers, he turned 22 years old last month.

When he first arrived at our sanctuary Knuckles was learning to feed himself, but could not walk yet. Over the years, many physical therapists, occupational therapists, volunteers, and staff worked diligently to help him to learn to walk, feed himself, climb, and even swing on swings. He made continual progress over the years with this devoted help, and he loved his caregivers and therapists.

But the most meaningful relationships were those he had with other chimpanzees. First as an infant and juvenile, he played for years with Grub, Kenya, and Noelle. Grub was exceptionally gentle with him clearly aware of Knuckles’ physical limitations. He also had wonderful playdates with Kodua… and then as he grew, our wonderful elder Toddy was his gentle companion for nearly two years.

At a time when we’ve been busily working on getting everything ready to accept eight more chimpanzees from the Wildlife Waystation, the sudden loss of Knuckles leaves a huge void here and brings tremendous grief to our staff, board members, volunteers… and everyone who knew him. He had so many friends and protectors who deeply loved him and who are sharing our sorrow.

But there are 63 other wonderful chimpanzees and orangutans here – and very soon to be 8 more – who need our continued attention and dedication.

Knuckles is at peace now… free from his physical limitations. He was the sweetest blessing, and we celebrate his life with gratitude that he was in our lives for so many years.

In loving memory of our precious Knuckles.

Knuckles’ mother Boma, his grandmother Oopsie, his grandfather Charlie, and many other members of his family were moved to the Center for Great Apes in 2005 — three years after Knuckles arrived.

 If you would like to make a contribution in memory of Knuckles, click