Stories of Chimpanzees

Stories of Chimpanzees

Jeannie
Jeannie
Ch. 562*: Too much for too long

Jeannie’s Story

Jeannie was born on October 7, 1975, most likely in a lab. When she was only six years old, her owners, pharmaceutical company Merck, Sharp & Dohme, donated her to the Buckshire Corporation, a private lab.

In 1988, Jeannie entered New York University’s Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP). In 1993, when she was 18 years old, Jeannie was infected with HIV. For the next two years, she endured intensive studies and suffered indignities. Records show that Jeannie was repeatedly given vaginal washes and cervical biopsies. She often needed to be treated for self-inflicted wounds and suffered from anorexia—refusing to eat.

In 1995, as her stress and inability to cope mounted, she had a “nervous breakdown,” and spent the next two years heavily medicated for anxiety. However, the medication did not help or prevent her from having episodes during which she screamed, ripped off her fingernails, and thrashed out at anyone who came near. Nor did her emotionally debilitated condition get her released from the lab sooner.

When LEMSIP closed, Jeannie was rescued into sanctuary at Fauna Foundation where her caregivers ensured that she received love, respect, and everything she needed to continue on her road to recovery.

Jeannie Chimpanzee Before
Photo: © Fauna Foundation

Fauna Foundation’s director Gloria Grow has asked us to let our Web site visitors and supporters know that on January 1, 2007, her beloved Jeannie died. She was 31 years old. Gloria stayed very close by her as Jeannie began to show some very concerning symptoms. She had round the clock care…but Jeannie’s progress was up, then down again. She was growing weaker and on the evening of New Year’s Day, Jeannie left the struggle behind her.Life changed for Jeannie when she met Gloria. Life changed for Gloria when she met Jeannie. Together they have helped us all come to know the truth about life in a lab and the hardships that endure long after, as well as the many gentle, loving and joyful moments that rescue holds.Jeannie has been and will always be an inspiration for all us. She will be remembered at every step of our campaign to end the use of chimpanzees in research. Her dignity in the face of her painful history and her recovery in sanctuary from the emotional scars of her trauma remind us of how important our work is for all of those remaining in labs.

She will be deeply missed.

Jeannie Chimpanzee
Photo: © Fauna Foundation

For our visitors who have adopted Jeannie (Jean): please let Fauna know if you would like your adoption donation to be in memory of Jeannie or if you would like it to be used to adopt one of Jeannie’s best friends: Sue Ellen, Tom, Jethro or Yoko. Contact gloria.grow@sympatico.ca

Jeannie loved the fresh, cool morning air. She ran outside and rolled down the path. She stretched her arms and legs, wriggling on the cool surface. She made content sounds as she enjoyed the smells and sensations of the sun and wind.

Although she was eventually rescued into sanctuary at Fauna Foundation, for too long Jeannie was denied the most basic pleasures, even fresh air. Jeannie’s retirement to sanctuary might never have happened as she was declared unsuitable for release and was almost left behind at the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP). She was being considered for “humane” euthanasia. Jeannie had reached her breaking point, and could no longer cope in the lab, as described by Gloria Grow at Fauna:

[LEMSIP’s veterinarian said that] Jean had snapped during her HIV studies, after too much for too long [emphasis added]. Jean had spent the majority of her life in biomedical research, nearly 24 years. Many souls simply cannot endure the rigors of life in the lab. Many survive physically, but mentally…will never return to a normal state.

Gloria described her first meeting with Jeannie at LEMSIP:

…I saw Jean have some sort of… episode. I’m not sure what medical term you would use to describe someone who was spinning, screaming, salivating, biting, and hitting herself, then hugging herself, urinating, defecating, and looking completely [out of control] all at once. This episode was brought on that day because we were there. I’ll never forget how the technician, Mike Gordon, just walked up to Jean and stuck his hands between the narrow bars and pressed his body right up to the cage, so Jean could feel him. He was her friend and he cared and she need[ed] to know someone was there for her.

Because of these episodes and Jeannie’s inability to be in a group, LEMSIP was not convinced that she should go to sanctuary. Rather they wondered if she could be moved to another lab, the notorious Coulston Foundation, or if she would have to be euthanized.

However, Jeannie had captured the hearts of several humans, like Gloria, Mike, and other LEMSIP personnel, who fought for her to retire to sanctuary. Gloria insisted on taking Jeannie along with the others who would be rescued from LEMSIP and now call Fauna their home.

For Gloria, Jeannie’s eyes told her that this chimpanzee had already suffered “too much for too long”:

It was [Jean’s] eyes, the eyes that could melt a heart of steel that instantly brought me to tears the very first day I met her, and filled me with overwhelming sadness, guilt and pain, but also with the need to end this horrible thing we were doing to these wonderful beings. …Those eyes, they see right into my soul. Those eyes that are the windows into hers.

Although Jeannie’s condition improved in sanctuary, she did not fully recover. She continued to have episodes of extreme anxiety and fear, although fewer and farther between. For example, she suffered dissociative times during which she attacked her own hand or foot as if it is not her own. Although Jeannie could not handle living in large social groups, she was able to live with one or two other chimpanzees at a time and developed rich relationships with many of her fellow Fauna chimpanzee residents when they came to “bunk.”

Jeannie improved immensely in sanctuary. She was calmer, more content, playful, and social. After all of her years of suffering, Jeannie found friends like Gloria, who want the best for her: “We cannot change her past, but we certainly can try to give her a life worth living.”


Sources

Jeannie’s story is based on information supplied by Fauna Foundation.

Gloria Grow, “Jeannie,” Fauna Foundation Newsletter (Dec. 1999)

Fauna Foundation Brochure, They Tattoo Their Victims, They Perform Horrific Experiments, Sound Familiar?, Case Histories

* Chimpanzees in laboratories are assigned a unique number beginning with “Ch.” Where it is known, NEAVS supplies this number in these stories.

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