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Save the Chimps Sanctuary: In Loving Memory of Norene and Melissa

Posted in 29/12/2020


Save the Chimps

Save the Chimps Sanctuary: In Loving Memory of Norene and Melissa

With great sadness, we announce that we lost two beloved members of our Save the Chimps family recently – Norene and Melissa.

Norene was born Nov. 3, 1986, to her mother Rosemary at The Coulston Foundation (TCF). Norene was taken from her mother approximately 36 hours after she was born, although there is no indication that Rosemary was a bad mother. She was taken to the nursery, and had frequent health problems for the first few years of her life. In July 1989, Norene was moved out of the nursery and into a cage with some other young chimps. Norene was used in three different biomedical research studies, one of which lasted a year and involved weekly infusions with an experimental monoclonal antibody.

In 2002, Norene was rescued by Save the Chimps when TCF was on the verge of bankruptcy. She was an extremely intelligent and dominant chimp and enjoyed observing her caregivers closely. She took great pleasure in cleaning her family’s indoor housing using a hose, squeegee, sponge, and bucket, a skill she could have only picked up by watching our daily activities.

Norene had long suffered from significant heart disease which was characterized by arrhythmias. In fact, four years ago, the veterinary team at Save the Chimps was able to resuscitate her after a cardiac event and extend her life. Norene’s observant and intelligent characteristics aided in her success in voluntarily taking part in her health care! She was trained to place her fingers on a device called a “Kardia” for accurate ECG tests. The rewards of juice or grapes may have had something to do with it, but the process of learning the correct steps in the procedure was also an enriching and mentally stimulating experience.

When Norene collapsed last month, CPR was performed; however the veterinary team was unable to resuscitate her a second time. Norene had sudden cardiac death due to a fatal arrhythmia caused by scarring in her heart muscle. It’s never easy to say goodbye to a dear chimpanzee like Norene. We’re grateful for the years she spent with us, living her best life at Save the Chimps. 

Melissa was born May 22, 1981 at the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP) to her mother Nancy and father Rufe. In her toddler years and throughout her adolescence, she was sedated for blood draws, liver biopsies, bone marrow aspirates, and other procedures up to thirty three times per year. In 1996 she was sent to The Coulston Foundation (TCF) in Alamogordo, NM. She was used in the breeding program and in 1999 gave birth to a son, Elway. Elway was removed from her care and sent to the laboratory nursery to be raised by humans.

On September 16, 2002, her life changed for the better when she was rescued by Save the Chimps. She was reunited with her son, Elway, and together, they joined Alice’s Family. Over time, Melissa developed deep friendships with members of this group, including her best friends, Tash, Lea, and Pamela. These four buddies spent their time searching for treats and relaxing on their favorite platform. Those who knew Melissa best called her “Momo Toes” for her penchant for wiggling her toes at caregivers.

In June 2019, Melissa partially ruptured a disc resulting in a severe weakness in her right leg. The veterinary team, along with the help of a veterinary neurologist, helped Melissa regain much of the use of her right leg and she resumed a relatively normal life. Sadly, by mid-November this year, Melissa’s kidneys and heart were failing, greatly reducing her quality of life, which led to the difficult decision by those who cared for her to euthanize her. Melissa’s necropsy determined what we expected clinically, that she had severe chronic kidney disease with secenday anemia and severe chronic cardiac disease. She had cardiac lesions known as myocardial fibrosis, which can lead to fatal arrythmias and sudden death. We miss her deeply but will remember the joy with which Melissa embraced her retired life at Save the Chimps and we’ll certainly never forget her “Momo Toes.” We’re grateful for the years that Melissa was able to enjoy spending her life with us, her chimpanzee family, and her son at Save the Chimps.

Rest in peace, Norene and Melissa. We will miss you always.

Give in their memory – https://savethechimps.org/donate/?NoreneMelissa