Stories of Chimpanzees

Stories of Chimpanzees

Arthur & Phoenix
Arthur & Phoenix

Arthur & Phoenix, ready for their journey into sanctuary

Photo: © NEAVS

Arthur and Phoenix’s Story

By Theo Capaldo, EdD, NEAVS President

I arrived at Greenville Wildlife Park after a long drive through the back roads of New Hampshire. At first sight of this run-down roadside zoo, I knew this was no place for chimpanzees.

Arthur and Phoenix were not on exhibition, and we had to rely on our sources, including a Greenville whistleblower, to locate them in the park. After roaming the park, we finally heard chimpanzee calls in the distance coming from a shabby building on the property. Exits without stairs, broken windows, and its generally dilapidated appearance told us a lot. We entered the first floor of this building, which housed several exotic species on exhibit. Urine-soaked wooden enclosures and cramped quarters made for an overwhelming stench. Then, we heard Arthur and Phoenix calling again from one of the upper floors.

Because we could not access the upper floors from the room that was open to the public, we went to look from the outside. Suddenly, there was Arthurhis little face pressed against the green-coated wire enclosure behind a dirty window. Arthur and Phoenix were there. We promised them they wouldn’t be there for long.

After their release from Greenville by court order, Arthur and Phoenix were transferred temporarily to Zoo New England who graciously offered to help us house them in preparation for their road trip to Save the Chimps in Florida. Throughout their rescue, Arthur clung to Phoenix in an attempt to find comfort. Although Arthur was bigger than Phoenix, he seemed to derive security from her. Arthur had more of an innocence and vulnerability to him, while Phoenix was more confident and eager to explore. Their “trainer” at Greenville was said to have disliked Phoenix, who in self-defense bit him on two occasions. However, Arthur was described as more “manageable.”

Since their rescue, I have had the pleasure of visiting them at Save the Chimps where I am amazed by their continued evolution into who they are. Almost from day one at sanctuary, Arthur understood that here he is safe. He quickly made his first friend, Thelma, a dog who had appeared at the sanctuary on the heels of a hunter’s’ gunfire. Arthur is a sweet, self-assured young man who enjoys the company of his newfound bigger and older adopted “brothers” and “uncles.” Watching the playful rough and tumble he enjoys reminds me of just how much better life is for him now.

Phoenix remains a complex little girl. She’s clever, watchful, and to everyone’s delight, showed incredible patience and affection for Angie, a much younger little girl than her. Phoenix took on the role of protector, teacher, and older sisterand does an amazing job.

Rescued chimpanzees: Arthur & Phoenix Photo: © NEAVS

From cage to stage to rescue!

The revolving door through which chimpanzees have been sold or abandoned from entertainment into research labs (see Butch and Chipper) has swung both ways. Laboratories have sold chimpanzees into entertainment, as was the case with Arthur (a.k.a. Ennio) and Phoenix. There is a happy ending for these two young chimpanzees, rescued in 2002 by NEAVS, who now enjoy life in sanctuary at Save the Chimps in Florida.

Arthur and Phoenix were born at the Coulston Foundation, a notorious lab that closed down after years of mounting pressure for violations of the Animal Welfare Act and growing economic failure. Coulston resorted to selling young chimpanzees like Arthur and Phoenix into entertainment through a Hollywood animal dealer.

Drew Weber, owner of Diamond Action, Inc., the Lowell Spinners, a minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, purchased Arthur and Phoenix when they were 2 and 1.5 years old, respectively, from Coulston Foundation to exhibit the young chimpanzees during promotional events at the ballpark.

Weber housed Arthur and Phoenix at Greenville Wildlife Park, a substandard roadside animal park in New Hampshire. In the short few months that Arthur and Phoenix were at the Greenville park, U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection reports cited Animal Welfare Act non-compliance (NCI), including the lack of an enrichment program to promote their psychological well-being.

After only 11 days at Greenville, a report noted that Arthur was rocking back and forth, a sign of stress in captive chimpanzees. A follow-up inspection issued a repeat NCI four months later since the park had still failed to provide an enrichment program.

After learning about Arthur and Phoenix, NEAVS initiated discussions with Weber regarding conditions at the park and the plight of chimpanzees in entertainment and research. These discussions resulted in NEAVS filing a lawsuit on behalf of Weber to regain custody of Arthur and Phoenix from Greenville, with the agreement that, if successful, their “ownership” would then be transferred to NEAVS.





Photo: © NEAVS

A monumental order issued on October 11, 2002, by Judge Groff of the New Hampshire Hillsboro Superior Court allowed for the transfer of Arthur and Phoenix out of Greenville. The order stated: “…The present living arrangements [at Greenville] will probably have a detrimental effect on their appropriate development and socialization.” The litigation between Greenville and Weber was eventually dismissed, and ownership of Arthur and Phoenix was transferred to NEAVS.

Arthur and Phoenix are now part of a real chimpanzee family and permanent, important members of Save the Chimps where they will never again be in harm’s way of either the biomedical or entertainment industries. They are strong, secure, and safe and were spared while very young so their resilience and joy for life is boundless!

NEAVS is honored to have played a role in the rescue of Arthur and Phoenix and is grateful to Save the Chimps for providing them with a lifetime home.

I am deeply moved that two more chimpanzees will never know the horrors of biomedical research or the confinement and indignities of entertainment. I applaud NEAVS, Dr. Capaldo, and Dr. Noon for helping Arthur and Phoenix to now have a much brighter future.

—Dr. Jane Goodall after learning of the rescue of Arthur and Phoenix




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