Visiting Chimpanzee Sanctuary NW

Yesterday I had the privilege of being a guest at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest. The sanctuary, 90 miles east of Seattle in the beautiful Cascade mountains, is home to seven former biomedical test subjects who now live out their days in peace and free from harm. It’s not a zoo (it’s set up for the chimps, not for visitors) and I was lucky to be able to stop by.

Young's Hill

I had a hard time imagining the sad existence these intelligent, curious creatures had to endure for a quarter century. They lived (if you can call it living) twenty-four hours a day in a steel cage like the one I’m standing next to. It’s almost the same as me living in solitary confinement in my bedroom closet.

size of cage

A cold metal cage with slats for waste to fall through was the only environment they had. They were warehoused indoors, away from sun and fresh air–all in the name of science. I’ve written before about why I don’t agree with animal testing, and these chimps are seven more reasons why I want it stopped.

The sanctuary is home to Jamie, Annie, Jody, Foxy, Missy, Burrito, and Negra. I visited over the lunch hour and watched the chimps forage for a meal. Volunteers hide food over Young’s Hill, the chimps two-acre outdoor enclosure, so they have an experience closer to how wild chimps find food.

chimps on termite mound

The chimps enjoy lots of fresh fruit and veggies and they enjoyed the sunny fall day, as they wandered through the grass looking for treats. There’s even an artificial termite mound so the chimps can use tools to pull treats out of tubes in the structure.

lunch on the mound

Some of the chimps, like Negra, and possibly Jody and Annie, were born in the wild, and saw their families get slaughtered so people could take the babies–them–to be used as pets or research subjects.

looking for snacks

Others, like Jamie, Missy, Foxy and Burrito, were born in captivity. Burrito lived in a human home for his first four years, but was then rented out to an animal trainer and later sold to a research lab. He’s the very reason I do not support companies or movies that use primates in their commercials or films. The chimps they use are babies who have been stolen away from their families and will likely end up in research when they’re too old and unruly–or simply warehoused and left to suffer alone.


Jody, Annie, Foxy, Missy, and Negra were all used as breeders and had several babies each taken away from them to be used in experiments too. It’s heartbreaking to think about how they must have grieved over their losses.


When they’re not enjoying the great outdoors (and safely behind an electric fence), the chimps have a great indoor space to enjoy. They play with toys, color and paint, and make chimp nests out of blankets. They’re making up for lost time.

veggies for lunch

This group of chimps came from the same lab and knew each other in their previous lives. They’re seniors now and deserve to live life at whatever pace they choose. Sometimes that means running around full of energy; other times, it’s relaxing in front of the window and watching the world go by,

social time

The chimps have been deprived their whole lives and are at the Sanctuary to heal and become whole again. They’re still very much wild animals so they’s no direct contact with them. They’re finally free to choose how and where to spend their time, and that’s a valuable thing,

chimp on logs

Over 900 chimpanzees are still in research labs around the USA–down from 3000 at the height of primate research. Only the USA and Gabon still test on chimps. You can help wild and captive chimps by joining Eyes on Apes and participating in action alerts to stop testing, poaching, and using chimps in entertainment.

lab cage

May all chimps one day see blue skies, not barren steel.


11 thoughts on “Visiting Chimpanzee Sanctuary NW

    • Ooh! Farm Sanctuary will be terrific! I’ve never been, but I have been to Pasado’s here in WA. There’s something magical about petting a cow 😛 Seriously, it was poignant to see the ones that didn’t end up on plates. Seeing these chimps, who’ve been through so much, finally get to live, was amazing. They’re still captive, but they’re lives are enriched now. Thanks for commenting!

  1. Such an informative post, Jean. Simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking. Thanks for sharing your visit with us, and for highlighting such an important animal rights issue.

    • Thank you Bob! So glad you joined. It really makes a difference when people stand up for what they believe in. Many companies don’t know the details about the animals that work in movies and ads so telling advertising agencies and studios why it’s wrong and asking them not to do it again, often works! Our voices are getting louder 🙂

  2. Great photos, although it’s sad to know they suffered for years at the merciless hands of humans. It’s good they are in a safe place, enjoying life instead of enduring the miserable existence that they had.

    I just watched some excerpts of Maximum Tolerated Dose (an excellent documentary on animal testing–which is not only cruel, but needless and totally useless). We’ll be showing it at Wilfrid Laurier and Waterloo University campuses next week. I am baffled and shocked with people who do these atrocities in the name of science.

    We’re on the wrong planet! It’s ironic that humans are the animals’ worst enemies and yet humans are their only hope to help them.

    With compassion,
    ❤ carmen

    • Thanks. It’s a bittersweet ending, for sure. I can’t think of a better place for the chimps–except in the wild. Sadly that’s not an option. Adding captive chimps to the endangered species list will prohibit people from testing on them, so that’s an option being worked on. But until all the chimps in labs are free, this story won’t be over. So glad there are people like the ones at Chimp Haven who are passionate about helping them.

  3. Pingback: My daughter: the animal rights activist | fashion with compassion

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