Stories of Chimpanzees

Stories of Chimpanzees


Photo: © Save the Chimps

Dana’s Story

Dana was captured as an infant in Africa and shipped to Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico for use in the U.S. Air Force’s space research program. She was used mainly for breeding, but the Coulston Foundation used Dana for several protocols, including one in which her kidney was transplanted into a baboon.

Decades later, Dana was moved with other chimpanzees from the space program to sanctuary at Save the Chimps in Florida, as a result of a successful lawsuit brought by the sanctuary against the U.S. Air Force.

Dana was a kind and mature female, who had a motherly touch, knowing both how to gently discipline while offering comfort and reassurance to other chimpanzees when needed.

NEAVS President, Dr. Theo Capaldo, was immediately drawn to this special person. NEAVS adopted Dana and pledged funds each year for her lifetime care.

Read about chimpanzee use in breeding programs.

Dana arrives at sanctuary
Photo: © Save the Chimps

The matriarch

Dana, who spent much of her life having her babies taken from her for research, later became the matriarch of a chimpanzee group at Save the Chimps sanctuary.

During her many years in research, Dana was primarily used for breeding. Chimpanzees in lab breeding programs routinely have their infants taken from them, even though in the wild, young chimpanzees are dependent on their mothers until they are weaned around age four, yet continue to live together.

Captive chimpanzee mothers typically will fight desperately against giving up their newborns and will have to be “knocked down” to accomplish it. Most chimpanzee mothers, whether captive or in the wild, love and protect their babies and would never willingly give them up. But when continually robbed of their children in the lab, some such abused mothers are said to eventually recognize their powerlessness and begin not to struggle. Other mothers—having themselves been taken from their mothers at birth—do not know how to take proper care of their infants who are then taken from them. Dana was one of the chimpanzees who year after year had her babies taken from her. We can only imagine the emotional toll.

Dana’s time with her own mother was cut short as well. Dana was captured in the wild, where chimpanzee mothers do not voluntarily surrender their babies. As an infant or young child, Dana would have witnessed her mother’s murder and many, if not all, members of her group being killed during her capture. Despite the hardships of her past, Dana embraced her new life in sanctuary. She was part of the first group of “Air Force” chimpanzees to be moved from the Coulston Foundation to the new facilities at Save the Chimps in Florida. Dr. Carole Noon, founder and director of Save the Chimps, refered to Dana as her “cofounder” and “trusted partner.” She described Dana as the “matriarch,” and relied heavily on Dana’s leadership in settling the chimps into their new lives at the sanctuary. Dr. Noon said, “I never made a move without her.”

Those who have met Dana speak of her wisdom. It was easy to see that she lived through a lot in her lifetime. You could see in Dana’s eyes an old soul who retained her proud sense of self and love for life despite her suffering. Dana passed away peacefully on May 6, 2012, under the open sky at Save The Chimps.


Dana’s story is based on information supplied by Save the Chimps.

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