Center for Great Apes

From the Center for Great Apes newsletter

Please Vote for Ripley!

RipleyThe Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is sponsoring
a chimpanzee art contest, with entries from six of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance sanctuaries across the U.S.  We have a great chance to win, so cast your vote today and every day until August 22nd .  First place winner will receive a $10,000 grant from HSUS! Please urge your family and friends to participate too – it's easy and only takes a few seconds to vote.  Just visit and cast your vote for our wonderful chimpanzee artist, Ripley! Don’t forget - you can vote EVERYDAY until August 22nd at 5 p.m.!
Blossoming New Friendship

Chuckie & Mari walkingFun-loving orangutan Chuckie, has made a new friend...and it's Mari!   The two redheads recently had a play-date, and boy, did they have a great time!  Our concern was how Chuckie would react to Mari who has no arms.  Even though Mari is about one-third the size of nearly 300-pound Chuckie, he was the one who was a little apprehensive when he first entered the habitat.  But after only a few minutes, they were sitting across from  each other and playing a very slow version of “tag.” Chuckie reached out 
Chuckie & Mari relaxing
and tickled Mari’s foot then sat back.  Mari waited a few minutes then stuck her foot out to touch Chuckie.  They did this for a little while, and then Chuckie decided to wander around the habitat.  Mari stood up and followed him everywhere he went.  Both orangutans eventually laid down- head to head- and played tug-of-war with a piece of pine straw!  Needless to say, it was a very gentle version of tug-of-war, but they seemed to really enjoy each other’s company. Pongo is still Mari's "main man", but one of the greatest gifts we can give our orangutan and chimpanzee residents are new and enriching friendships. 

Mari, a Sumatran orangutan, came to the Center from a research facility in Georgia where she was part of a language and cognition study. Mari is a very unusual orangutan in that she has no arms. She lost both her arms while still an infant when her mother, in a very agitated state, damaged her limbs beyond repair. In spite of the accident, Mari is a very capable orangutan. She uses her chin to hoist herself up, uses her feet as we would our hands, and she walks upright (or rolls when she wants to get somewhere quickly). Initially, we were concerned that she might have difficulty maneuvering in a new environment, but she quickly proved us wrong. She moves with such ease and grace that sometimes we forget that she is missing her arms.

When Mari first arrived at the sanctuary in 2001, she spent several months in quarantine (which is standard for new arrivals). Our first two resident male orangutans (Pongo and Christopher) could see Mari everyday from their nighthouse and were fascinated with her! They spent many hours watching Mari and often tried to get a reaction from her. The first week she arrived, young Christopher “dressed himself up” with celery stalks around his neck and on his head, and then paraded around in Mari’s view. He kept checking to see if she was looking at him. We’re not sure whether Mari was impressed, but he definitely had her attention!

Pongo and Christopher are the first male orangutans Mari had ever seen. She was gradually introduced to both boys and has lived peacefully with them in their large domed habitat, but if the boys get rowdy, Mari handles them either with a “kung-fu” kick, or a spit-in-the-face! When Pongo was an adolescent, but still much larger than Mari, he would retreat into a bucket or tub to get away from the intimidating stare Mari gave him if she wasn’t in the mood for play.

Many mornings, Mari climbs the ladder to the top of the 40-foot tall enclosure using her chin and her feet. And she likes to spend part of the day walking upright through the woods in the chute system. Usually, she follows Pongo everywhere he goes, but occasionally she likes to go out in the woods for time alone.

from the Center for Great Apes website.