Dear little Sue Ellen is a remarkable little chimpanzee, whose life has been so hard, for so long and for so many reasons. Sue Ellen is one of those chimpanzees who has crossed through many worlds and none of them the world she was born to be part of. She has lived many different lifestyles, taken from her mother as a baby and raised by humans, where she would go into the entertainment world, where there is so much abuse and suffering. After 15 years in that life, she was sold again, but this time to LEMSIP, a research laboratory, where she would be subjected to life in a small cage, frightened and scared all the time, abused and violated in some of the most unimaginable ways. When Sue Ellen challenges us, or gets angry with us, we must always remember her background and her suffering.
Over the years, Sue Ellen has had many friends and many losses, each one taking another piece of her heart away with them. From the early years, her friends Billy Jo, Annie, Donna Rae, Tommy, Pablo, Jeannie and more recently her dear sweet Pepper. As I look back on these friendships she had, I see how truly difficult her life has been. She was blessed to have these friends, but the loneliness she must feel is obvious.
Sue Ellen enjoys life’s simple pleasures, such as sitting out in the morning sun from her favourite lookout in the skywalk near the front gate and waiting for all her human friends to arrive at Fauna. She also enjoys eating her breakfast leisurely while the day unfolds around her. Sue Ellen has always enjoyed exploring and can often be found far and away from the building in the skywalks. She loves to wear things. So, on the days when she is not covered up with a sheet or blanket, she will usually have on a necklace, scarf or some other item, usually something exotic like a pasta necklace around her waist.
In September of 2013, Sue Ellen had the opportunity to get to meet a new chimpanzee friend. Her name is Tatu and she is from Ellensburg, Washington. She is one of the remaining group of chimpanzees who were taught American Sign Language (ASL), years ago in the sign language studies. Tatu and her chimpanzee brother, Loulis, have lost most of their family too. She and Loulis arrived at Fauna on August 28, 2013. We have hopes of them finding some new friendships and adventures in their lives after their losses. They have a lot in common and hopefully they can develop a special friendship in the coming years.
Sue Ellen is Fauna’s eldest resident and her lifestyle now at Fauna is quite laid back and relaxing. Her frail and arthritic body restricts her from living in a large social group, so quiet times with a new friend or two might be just the retirement she needs. Loulis has met Sue Ellen too. He is the adopted son of the late Washoe, one of the first chimpanzees to learn ASL and he was taught sign language by her. He is a very special fellow and he has been so wonderful with Sue Ellen; kind, considerate and respectful. As we experience these special moments between Tatu, Sue Ellen and Loulis, we realize how important friendships are to them. Supportive relationships, even when new, are essential and show us how remarkable chimpanzees are.