Stories of Chimpanzees

Stories of Chimpanzees

Ch. 454*: The simple things

Pepper’s movements are almost always slow, deliberate, and careful. She has a grace and thoughtfulness about her. It breaks my heart to think about what she went through in her life before Fauna. It is hard to imagine that the only life she knew before coming to Fauna was the life of a research animal.

–Diana Goodrich, “Pepper – first impressions,” Fauna Foundation Newsletter (Sept. 2001)

Pepper was born in 1970 and spent her first 27 years in research, first at a Merck, Sharp & Dohme laboratory, followed by seven years at the Buckshire Corporation. When she became too strong to control, she was sent to the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP).

Pepper spent some time in breeding, but was mostly used for research, including some 307 knockdowns, 36 punch liver biopsies, one open wedge liver biopsy, six cervical biopsies, 10 lymph node biopsies, and four bone marrow biopsies. In the lab, Pepper was plagued by fear and anxiety, and would rather starve herself than face an unpleasant situation.

Pepper spent 27 years in research labs, where she marked time staring blankly between the bars of her cage. Finally, Pepper was retired to sanctuary at Fauna Foundation where, rather than staring out of a lab cage, she spent much of her time sitting by a chimpanzee-proof bay window, unimpeded by bars, looking out over the farm or strolling through a long, overhead chute system that allowed her to walk the acres.

In front of those bay windows or in special spots along the chutes at Fauna, Pepper often made herself a nest in which to sleep using the blankets and sheets she was given every night – a simple pleasure she was so long denied in the labs. Sometimes Pepper added straw to her bed, which she would keep for several days, adding new materials each night.

Fauna staff dubbed her the “Queen Nest Builder,” given the care and delight she showed in preparing her night nests. Fauna staff also remarked that, “in the mornings, as we walk[ed] up to the building, we [could] just see her baldish head and pointy ears above the enormous mound of blankets she had gathered to make her bed.”

Pepper also enjoyed cleaning. She often was found sweeping piles of rubbish and packing her piles into containers for Fauna staff to pick up. According to a Fauna caregiver:

During my first weeks at Fauna, the thing that stood out the most about Pepper was that almost every day she would come to the front cages for a bowl of soapy water, a scrub brush, and a rubber glove. Pepper often food-grunts [a sure sign of delight] in anticipation. Pepper then very carefully takes the bowl of water into the back area and cleans…

These simple things—an unobstructed view, a walk, a night nest, and the joy of varied daily activities—did not make up for the 27 years that Pepper endured in research. But they did provide Pepper with, perhaps for the first time in her life, a view of her world without bars and the comfort of a world far bigger than a 5′X5′X7′ laboratory cage.

At Fauna Foundation, Pepper was still prone to being nervous, but she was also a sweet, gentle, and loving lady. She was attentive to all of her chimpanzee friends, especially their grooming needs. She met her days eagerly and with interest, rather than with the sad, blank stare of her former laboratory life. Sadly, Pepper passed away in 2012 of kidney failure. Surrounded by her beloved family and friends, both human and chimpanzee, she comforted and was comforted by her loving community through her final hours.


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

Watch our YouTube video featuring Pepper.

Diana Goodrich, “Pepper—first impressions,” Fauna Foundation Newsletter (Sept. 2001)

Diana Goodrich, “Pepper—extension anecdotes,” Fauna Foundation Newsletter (Fall 2002)

* 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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