Stories of Chimpanzees

Stories of Chimpanzees


Hanzie will never be forgotten
Photo: © Save the Chimps

Hanzie spent his last years in sanctuary at Save the Chimps in Florida, but the majority of his life was spent in laboratories. Hanzie was captured in Africa when he was about two years old as he clung to his mother, in the only way a baby chimpanzee can be captured—by killing his mother.

Although his stay in sanctuary was all too brief, in that short time, Hanzie became a valued, cherished member of his chimpanzee family and stole the hearts of his caregivers.

—Save the Chimps website
Life and Death of Hanzie

A silent grieving

Hanzie was shipped to the U.S. where he spent the next few years at a now defunct tourist attraction in California. In 1965, when he had outgrown his usefulness to the tourist attraction, he was sent to the Holloman Air Force Base to be used in research. Hanzie was used in rapid decompression research and restrained in a “test chamber.”

As a young adult, Hanzie was reassigned to the breeding program where he spent the next 20 years. He continued to be knocked down on a regular basis for blood draws. In 1987, he began a series of punch liver biopsies that lasted into the 1990s when he was diagnosed with a liver tumor and congestive heart failure.

During a 1999 physical exam Hanzie appeared jaundiced and doctors found a tumor on his liver. It was also noted during this physical that his heart skipped every third or fourth beat. Lab results showed that Hanzie was suffering from Congestive Heart Failure and the tumor on his liver was growing. He was put on a combination of cardiac drugs and the doctor on duty wrote DO NOT RESUSCITATE IF COLLAPSED in his chart.

Doctors predicted that Hanzie, with his weak heart, would simply die in his sleep one morning—this is exactly what happened.

Hanzie died in his sleep while lying comfortably in an elaborate nest he had built with soft blankets and fresh hay. He died among his new family of chimpanzees. Despite being one of the noisiest species on earth, his chimpanzee family was silent for two days after Hanzie’s death.

However, Hanzie did not die sleeping alone in a cold, steel lab cage where he had spent much of his life. Instead, in April 2001, Hanzie began a new life free of research when he was among the first group of chimpanzees to leave the Holloman Air Force Base for sanctuary at Save the Chimps in Florida.

Did Hanzie know he was finally at sanctuary? I haven’t a clue. What I do know is that when he died, there were people around him who loved him and cried at his funeral.

          —Dr. Carole Noon, Save the Chimps

His chimpanzee family’s silence was a fitting tribute to this special chimpanzee.


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

NEAVS Brochure, From Stage to Lab Cage

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