Petra, Petra, Petra…our darling Petra. Petra has taught me so much about the challenges of captive life. More than anyone, she has been able to communicate her feelings, which have given me great insight into the problems she and her family face.
Petra knows she shouldn’t be locked up! From the day she moved in, and from those first years of her life, she has wanted the keys to get out. She understands and hates it.
Not a day passes at Fauna where she doesn’t remember to check the locks or try to fit keys into the holes of the locks. Although Petra cannot speak, or use sign language to express her feelings, this simple act of trying to get a key in a lock to take it off says more than anything; and it is the deepest sadness I feel each time I see her do it.
Petra’s strong will and character have been misunderstood for many years. She was only nine when she came to Fauna, and my memories of her as a tiny little anorexic girl are as vivid to me now as they were 16 years ago. She was traumatized, mistreated, frightened and going insane. Life in a sanctuary saved her — but the effects of her tragic beginnings will always linger and she will one day, I fear, pay the price.
Petra has found a coping tool and it is not the healthiest for her. She eats, and finds great comfort in food. Petra is obese and has used food for coping with her life. I cannot blame her, nor would I wish her life on anyone.
She has learned to adapt and finds pleasure in grooming, sitting in the sun and overseeing all family relationships. She also takes pleasure in her special relationships with her human friends. We adore Petra and respect her strength as well as her weakness.
As full as her life can be in captivity and as much as she takes advantage of all her space, and loves her family and new friends, there will always be the past that has forever marked her life and her soul.
A remarkable chimpanzee, born in a cage in New York State, pulled from her birth mother, raised by humans, then abandoned by them too. Forced to endure unimaginable torture of body and mind, it is no wonder why Petra struggles daily. What her life should have been is something we all know; perhaps it is a good thing she doesn’t know, but somehow I sense she has a gut feeling it’s all wrong and my God, she is right!