When I met Loulis in 1995, he was living at the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute (CHCI), in Ellensburg, WA. He was living with his amazing adopted mom, Washoe, and their extended family, Moja, Dar and Tatu. He was happy living in that wonderful family group, protected and cared for by Washoe. As the family members passed away — on June 8, 2002, Moja passed away, then five years later on October 30, 2007, Washoe died — life must have changed dramatically for Loulis, losing the most important person in his life, his mom. Loulis still had Tatu and Dar, this family of three, now even closer than ever for those years after. In 2009 “Friends of Washoe”, had begun conversations about the possibility of bringing more chimpanzees into CHCI, understanding completely the consequence of a smaller family, and plans were being made to allow such a move. Friends of Washoe had already been concerned about the future of Dar, Loulis and Tatu. The plans were made to modify and renovate the existing building to allow the introduction of a small group of chimpanzees to Loulis, Tatu and Dar.
Five years later, on November 24, 2012, Dar suddenly passed away, while Loulis and Tatu watched yet another family member leave them. How devastating for them as the family got smaller. Dar passed away just after the first phase of work was done, leaving everyone in a state of shock. Suddenly plans needed to be accelerated, but sadly the University who owned the building procrastinated, not responding to the questions put forward by Friends of Washoe, who are the legal guardians of Loulis and Tatu, not the University. The University however had control of their home and they planned on evicting their famous residents. The University made it clear they did not want to provide a permanent home for the last two family members of Washoe, the remarkable chimpanzee who brought world wide attention to Central Washington University. For more than 30 years, Washoe and her family contributed to the reputation and the influx of students to the University. Now, one man and a small committee, going against the votes and support form the community, would make a decision that would change their lives forever. With no regard for their future or clearly for their past importance at the University, he would make the decision that would send the son of Washoe away forever, along with Tatu.
With time passing and sadness setting in, Friends of Washoe began to make plans, even before the final decision was made. Fearing the University would not go forward with the renovations, everyone was running out of time. Loulis, was 35 years old and Tatu 37, so certainly they could live together for many more years. But what would happen if only one chimpanzee was left? How tragic and sad that could be.
So Friends of Washoe secured a future for Loulis and Tatu here at Fauna. Other NAPSA (North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance) accredited sanctuaries were very willing to provide a home for Loulis and Tatu, but all needed funding and all needed time…and time was running out. Fauna had space and the perfect social situation to offer and so, Fauna was chosen as the new and permanent home for Loulis and Tatu. A bittersweet end indeed.
Loulis is a dear soul, we don’t know him very well at all yet, but what we have seen is that he is shy, reserved and very nervous. He has always lived in a family group and in protected environments with only family around him. He is rather institutionalized and like so many of the chimps here at Fauna, he has fears of new spaces and new things. It is a consequence of growing up in a protected and limited space. All captive environments are this way, of course, and even though some of Fauna’s residents explore their building, they may not choose to venture out on the Island for example, even after living here so many years. What Loulis is going through is normal for a fellow who has be raised in his captive world. So, in the same way we respected the needs of others before Loulis, we will respect his personal boundaries, too.
Loulis is still just getting comfortable in his new space, not quite as adventurous as Tatu, but seemingly very cozy in his new home. He has favorite spots, some of the most popular locations of past residents and favorite lookouts. Loulis has chosen the nest location of Pepper, where she and Sue Ellen used to sleep in the best beds in the chimp house. He seems to enjoy being by the wndows on the second level of the chimp house, where the morning sun shines in and the best view of those who enter or pass the building.
Great efforts were made by Friends of Washoe and Fauna to ensure Loulis and Tatu had as many reminders from home as possible. Most importantly, we needed interpreters at all times; human friends here with them from CHCI. Already on staff at Fauna was one friend from their past, but more were needed to go through the transition period. Also, were regular check in’s from Dr. Mary Lee Jensvold, long time friend of Loulis and Tatul here to make sure Loulis and Tatu were doing well in their new home. We made every effort to ensure that they were surrounded by many familiar things, like blankets, toys, netting and enrichment items; each item, a reminder of home and a comfort. We also tried to maintain a similar schedule and not change things so much that they would get sick or too confused.
The most endearing thing I saw from Loulis early on were his first night nests. Before his journey to Canada, the students of CHCI gave Loulis Canadian Flags, a big one and a little one. As you know, the colours of the flag are red and white…We all know now that red is one of Tatu’s favorite colors and so any good brother would love his sister’s favorite colour, too…right? And, of course the texture of the fabric is one of Lou’s favorites too.
Well, the first nests for many weeks had a flag in them. Each time Loulis would take a flag (sometimes the big one, sometimes the little one) from the locations they would be placed at after the laundry was done. To see his piece of comfort in his nest was very special. These small pieces of fabric holding so much meaning and comfort to him, special little gifts from home and a special reminder of his friends in Ellensburg.
Loulis also loves the activity that goes on daily near his new home. He has lots of windows that look outdoors and a big window that overlooks the enrichment area, where many people travel daily. He gets to interact in a way that has always been comfortable for him, through the glass and he loves the activity. Surely this location reminds him of his home in WA. Fauna was designed following the plans of CHCI, the only difference it that over the years, we have expanded and added lots of new spaces. There would be many similarities to CHCI and that must be somewhat of a comfort to Loulis, however still big enough that right now he needs to figure it out.
Loulis likes people and he seems very content to play chase with old and new friends and to observe their activities. He has also found great pleasure in overseeing some of the chimps activities…he has met many of the other residents through the bars and seen them walking through the skywalks near his favorite area. He was introduced to Sue Ellen a little while after Tatu met her. He instantly bonded with Sue Ellen and the moments they have shared together have been very touching. He is kind to her. He is playful and quite loving. Sue Ellen is a supportive friend, and someone who has been part of the Fauna family for many years. She knows the neighbors very well and is not shy to scream at them when they are being silly and this is helpful and makes Loulis and Tatu feel welcome and supported. Sue Ellen is taking care of him, in her way.
The kind of support Sue Ellen has shown Loulis and Tatu is remarkable and very helpful. She has been longing for some friends to spend time with after the loss of her best friend, Pepper. There was no one in the group that filled the void Pepper left and Sue Ellen’s days were long. Now she has two wonderful new friends who really live a lot like she does and it is a comfort for all three of them.
Loulis is now back in a family and he is with Fauna’s eldest and most respected member. Sue Ellen has been the best friend to the highest-ranking chimpanzees at Fauna, protected and loved by all. Her frail body and disabilities have made it impossible for her to live in big social groups or with rambunctious residents, but this new life is not only of great benefit to her, but to Loulis too…As Tatu runs off to visit and socialize, Loulis spends the days with Sue Ellen and his human friends.
Loulis has signed to Binky that he wants to play chase through the window. Binky plays with him and then they stop. Spock is a favorite of Loulis. He knows Spock’s voice and he runs to see what is going on when he hears him. Loulis has also shown interest in Maya, a beautitul full-bodied girl from across the way. Chance has been peeking at Loulis every chance she can get,= and I know she will really enjoy his company. They have similar lifestyles. Tatu and Spock are doing so well together, and it is just a matter of time before Loulis and Spock meet without bars.
Loulis is exploring more, venturing into new spaces and getting to know the neighbors from afar. He loves having the food choices on his trolley and still seems somewhat amazed that there are so many things to choose from. He is sensible. Never taking more than he needs (however recently hidden under the blankets of his nest I found a full orange and a nice red pepper…always good to save things for the midnight munchies!).
Loulis is charming, very engaging, yet also very private and reserved. He has won the hearts of all…my family, our staff, our volunteers and visiting volunteers. He is a darling fellow, a kind and generous soul with lots of new adventures and challenges in front of him. With his long time family member Tatu there by his side and Sue Ellen there for him now…and of course his human friends from CHCI…he is sure to become more and more comfortable in his new home.