Guest Blog: Shirley McGreal, Director of the International Primate Protection League

When I first started researching Hurt Go Happy, I heard about Shirley McGreal. She's been working to save primates from research facilities, protect them in their natural habitat, and conduct investigations into illegal trafficking in primates. The IPPL is headquartered and operates a sanctuary in Summerville, SC. I asked Shirley to tell us about her first rescue.

9 August 1981

Thirty long years ago. My friend, Kit, and I drove to the Atlanta airport to collect a new friend. We were scared he'd get lost because his move occurred during the turbulent days of the air (traffic) controllers' strike.

Our new friend was one of the first laboratory primates ever to escape a research lab. A California lab had lost its funding to continue its cruel cancer experiments on gibbons. Homes were quickly found for all but one of its gibbons, the fragile underweight little ape known only as HLA-98. The gibbon had been abandoned as a baby and reared with a wire 'surrogate mother.' He faced euthanasia until IPPL stepped in and offered him a home.

We had been told by the lab director that the little gibbon was 'mentally retarded' and 'metabolically abnormal.' Of course we didn't let that stand in our way because we exist to help the most needy primates. We contacted Thai Buddhist monks who gave him the name Arun Rangsi, which means, "The Rising Sun of Dawn."

We were nervous when we reached the Delta cargo shed. Did our gibbon make his flight? We asked the cargo manager to call the pilot, who said there was no gibbon on the plane, but there was a chimpanzee. We waited with bated breath while the 'chimpanzee' was unloaded. What we saw in the crate was a tiny gibbon with huge shining dark eyes. (Picture above. Arun Rangsi in his crate.) We brought him home. The poor little gibbon was neurotic and banged his head so hard it must have hurt. We worked hard to help him overcome his trauma and gradually he became a happy little ape.

9 August 2011

In the 30 intervening years, we found a girl gibbon named Shanti, who became Arun's partner in life. She was also a lab veteran. In contrast to the high-strung Arun, Shanti was very laid-back. They have produced several offspring. Arun Rangsi had not read the psychology textbooks that said an isolated-reared primate could never breed! He has now been vasectormized. (Picture: Arun Rangi now)

It takes very special people to work with veteran research primates and IPPL has been very lucky to have attracted wonderful caregivers for our gibbons, who now number 33.

Please visit the International Primate Protection League website