Wednesday, January 28, 2015

San Francisco Zoo Director Kicks Out Senior Chimps!

I apologize ahead of time at the length of this post.  This is a real Passion Issue for me and because of the nature of it, I feel its necessary to be very clear on all points.  If you care about our Chimps, please read in full.  Thank you.


Outrageous News out of the Zoo.  Well, not really "out" of the Zoo, since the Zoo has made no public mention of this, I guess just another thing they hope to keep secret.  

San Francisco Zoo Director Tanya Peterson has given the boot to the Family of Three Senior Chimpanzees who have lived at the Zoo for over 45 years!

Where are they going?  To Florida. I'm still not completely sure exactly where.  I've heard a Sanctuary, yet the only place I've heard the name of,  I don't think falls into Sanctuary category.  

As noted, the Zoo has not made any public mention of this move, so I guess its all being done on the hush and those of us who love these Chimps will just show up one day and they will be gone?  

This News makes me sick.   I am not the only one who loves these Chimps and is heartbroken at the thought we will never see them again.

As well, I am not alone in feeling this is wrong.  Our Chimps are aged 57, 45 and 45.  These Chimps should not be put throught the trauma of a move.  The reality if you picture it will be such:  They will think everything is going routine in their life, til they are darted and tranquilized.  They will be flown across the country, wake up in a cage in an unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar people.  After a quarentine time, they will be intergrated into established Chimpanzee groups, all with an already established Alpha Male.

Imagining them put in this situation is heartbreaking.  What happens if they don't intergrate?  What happens if Cobby has a hard time?  He has been the only Male in his group.  Will he be banished to live alone?  Separated from his Girls?  Sent off to another place?   I already know that Cobby had a really difficult time when he came to the Zoo in 1968.  I am friends with one of his first Keepers John Alcaraz (1968-1986).   John, an established SFZoo Ape Keeper started working with Cobby a couple months after his arrival, when the new Keeper hired to work in the new Triple Grotto (that went up in 68 as well) couldn't hack it.  Upon meeting Cobby, he found a frustrated, upset and out of control Chimp, yelling and screaming.  Cobby came to the Zoo after living in someone's home and being used in Entertainment.  When he arrived at the Zoo, the new Keeper did nothing to help him transition to Zoo life.   He was thrown in with other males and they beat on him.  John worked with him to get him comfortable living in captivity and with other Chimpanzees.  He has said this took sometime because they had to develop a relationship of working together.  This was 47 years ago.  The Girls, both Maggie and Minnie came to the Zoo as infants together 45 years ago and only know the SFZoo as their home.

How can this be happening you might ask?

The current situation as I have come to understand it is such.

The AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums)  has a "loose rule" that requires Chimpanzees to live in groups of four minimum.   Less than four they are required to add the the group, to bring it to an ideal social size that resembles how they would live in the wild.

The problem with doing that with our group comes with questions.

Would the AZA allow the Zoo to bring in more Chimps?   Is that not an option unless enclosure upgrades are made (which has come up for other Zoos)?  Did Director Peterson just take the easy way out and opt to just send them away?

Would the Chimps be in this position if their home had been at the very least, upgraded?  OR would they still have been booted out by Director Peterson, in favor of bringing in more "new and shiny" Animals?

As I've noted in previous posts: 
Please read if you haven't, to get full understanding of situation with SFZoo Chimps.

There has been a steady stream of new areas built both for Humans and New Animals during Director Peterson's reign (several this past year) and the new continues to flow with rumors of new species, needing new homes built, already on the agenda.  ... This week I saw construction begin on building yet a new childrens's play structure next to the current playground.  Are you friggin' kidding me?  More for Humans?  

As well, as incoming, I have seen many Animal species get transfered out.  At first I thought it was for better management size, then new ones just came in to seemingly take their place.  So, basically what appears to be  happening is theres a personal agenda in place and some Animals are more desirable than others. ... That said, allegedly Director Peterson has a plan to bring in another species of Ape and of course then, they will need to build a new home for them.  If this is true, I can literally feel the SLAP in the face for our poor Chimps.

I did some investigating in regards to the AZA position.  I still haven't heard back from them, but I called several of the Zoos that were listed in the 2012 Chimpanzee Studbook as having 3 or less Chimps.  I spoke at length to the Director at one Zoo, whose group of 3 is in the same situation.  Valuable information  was shared and makes me question in regard to our Chimps, Is moving them the only doable option?  I believe HELL NO!  is the answer!

*The Zoo Director I talked to said his Zoo has had only three Chimps for near five years.  We lost our Tallulah in 2013.  We have only had three under two years. 

*The AZA would prefer Chimps not being transefered out and are "willing" to work with Zoos to keep them.   

Considering those two statements, I'm led to believe Director Peterson  just doesn't want to try.   But WHY?  Is the question.  

Has the full picture (as I'm describing it) been shown to the Recreation and Park, and Zoological Society?

If so, how can they be caring of the Animals if this is allowed to happen?

AND if they say its better for them, then they might as well send every Animal at the SFZoo away, because that's saying something about the care there.

This other Zoo has recently been given a timeline, as their situation mandates that they upgrade the enclosure before they can bring in additional Chimps.   If they can raise money to upgrade the enclosure, they can keep their Chimps.  ... They are currently running an online campaign outreaching to the public for help. ...  They WANT to keep their Chimps.

Does the San Francisco Zoo WANT to keep their Chimps?  OR are they on Director Peterson's hit list of Animals to send out in favor of bringing more in?

Has the AZA said they can't bring in additional Chimps to enlarge the group?  OR Has the AZA said they can't, unless they upgrade the enclosure?  OR is this just the ticket Peterson needed as an excuse to send them packing?

While their life at the SFZoo is not the best it can be, it certainly isn't the worst.  They deserve to live out their lives in the only place they've known as home.

Doing everything that can be done to keep them there to live out the duration of their lives, should be the priority.  ... WHY?  Isn't it?

The biggest disgust and crime, is that this move might not have ever been necessary if the Zoo had not disregarded the Chimps for the last 17 years.  If we are going with one assumption, that its an enclosure upgrade issue, then there is no reason these Chimps should be traumatized because the SFZoo has slighted them.  Thats not their fault. ... Its not their fault that the last upgrade to their enclosure was in the mid 80s.  Please read my post: for full details ...  Its not their fault that the SFZoo misappropriated money in 1997 from a City Bond that was voted in with a designation for a new Great Ape Forest.  For more information please read my previous post:

In addition to the two posts I've linked, I also wrote one with a idea for expanding the group.
Both my suggestions for upgrading and for expanding the group would Save Our Chimps.  BUT thats only if the Zoo actually wanted to and again, that's NOW the real question.  

San Francisco Zoo do you want to Save Our Chimps?

Sadly, because of the years of disregard I think I know the answer, but that doesn't mean the SFZoo shouldn't be made to do better by these Chimps.

I have done a tremedous amount of complaining about the SFZoo.  Its because I care, and I want them to do better.   

In light of that, one could ask, do I think they could get better care at another facility?  Who knows.  And that could then be a questionable concern for every Animal at the Zoo.  

Does that mean the San Francisco Zoo Team, Management and Officials should get off easy, with a convinent send off,  for the disregard they've shown to the Chimpanzees?  Hell NO!

Should the SFZoo continue to be allowed to bring in more New Animals before taking care of the ones already there?  Hell NO!  THAT is the main issue.  

As I've written before bringing in New Animals (which does not include those in need of rescuing),  to enlarge the Collection, based on personal agenda and gate sale greed, is a disgrace and disrespect to every current Resident Animal in need.

Allegedly the San Francisco Zoo has to answer/get the okay from the City of San Francisco, the San Francisco Recreation and Park, and the San Francisco Zoological Society.  That said, those "Offices"  of authority should take a better managing position. In doing so they should:

*Put a STOP to this move.  The Chimps SHOULD NOT LEAVE the San Francisco Zoo.

*Put an indefinite hold on any current and future plans that include bringing in New Animals, that require new exhibits to be built.  ... Zoo should be forced to take care of "home" , before anything else. 

*Find Funds (because I know they are there) to upgrade the current Chimpanzee enclosure not only for them, but to accomodate any assumed AZA issue in regard to expanding the group.  ... Upgrading they could bring in two new females that wouldn't change the current dynamics too much.

*Find Funds/Fundraise for the construction of a New Chimpanzee Exhibit.  ... They could then complete a move and add more Chimps to expand group, after a decent integration time. 

THIS is the only way to respect these wonderful beings who have given near half a century to the San Francisco Zoo.

My head is spinning over this whole situation.  So, In closing (for now), I only can keep asking myself, ...

How does the San Francisco Zoo (Director Peterson and others who have supported this Motion to Move) think this is a good idea? ...  I'd bet as noted, they don't really and this is just an easy out for them.  The Chimps aren't being sent away for their own good.  As well, Director Peterson will probably be praised for this, as the public hears the word "Sanctuary" and thinks its the best thing for all Animals.  While this possibly might have been a good thing 20 yrs ago, at their age now its not. Its even more disgusting because of the disregard and apparent discard circumstances.

How does the City of San Francisco, the San Francisco Recreation and Park,
and the San Francisco Zoological Society, (the governing agencies the Zoo answers to) think that this is a good idea?  ... My bet is they have not been given the full picture, and/or don't care.  Definitely its per usual, just go along with whatever Director Peterson says.  They take the easy way out as well, never questioning anything, never getting involved, never anything that has to do with the place they are supposed to be "watching over".  

Over the next week, I do plan to make more noise about this.  If you are outraged as well, please check back for my next post which will include contact information for letter writing, as well, I may have some other ideas to Save Our Chimps!

Until then, please feel free to contact San Francisco Zoo Director Tanya Peterson.

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Check back as I reply to all comments.
Contact the San Francisco Zoo Director Tanya Peterson
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  1. I feel exactly the same way as you stated. I worry about the chimps age with the stress of a move.

  2. This seems to happen a LOT at the zoos...Bronx gave a wolf to a place in New Jersey because he was OLD & in their opinion not that appealing to the public anymore. However, he ended up better off because the place he went was much nicer. (Popcorn Park Zoo...haven't been there in a very long time but the place was just great...couldn't believe how happy the animals all seemed to be.)


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