Rachel is a beautiful chimpanzee. She was born at the infamous Dr. Lemmon’s compound in Norman, Oklahoma. This is the same place where so many chimpanzees we know of today were born. Spock, Maya, Sophie, Tatu, and many, many others were born there. Rachel was just one of the many babies born at that facility and every one of them, stolen from her mothers. Many of them were then placed in homes with some of Dr. Lemmon’s psychiatric patients.
As most of the babies reached a certain age, their personalities changed and they could no longer live in the homes they had grown up in. In Rachel’s case, her adoptive mother gave her up for personal reasons to Laboratory for Experimental and Surgery in Primates at three and a half years old. She, like many other people who gave or sold their chimpanzees to LEMSIP, believed that Rachel would not be harmed. She was told or understood that the Rachel would be given some of the same things they had grown used to over the years and that Rachel would have a chance to be a mother.
Now we know that chimpanzees are not meant to be pets or companions to humans and doing such desperate things can have terrible consequences. Perhaps well meaning, Rachel’s human mother could not know the real future that laid ahead for her chimpanzee child. And, so sad for Rachel, the promises made were not kept. With no one checking on her to see how she was doing, the lab was able to do whatever they wanted to her.
Rachel was tortured, abused, isolated and tormented by her years in the lab. Rachel really was going crazy and had so many emotional problems. Since she came to Fauna in 1997, Rachel’s life in sanctuary has not always been peaceful. She is tormented inside and cannot escape her past or her fears, but she tries and has succeeded in making a life for herself and for those she loves, including her stuffed baby gorillas that she takes with her everywhere.
What I have seen these past years has been both heart-breaking and heart-warming. Her abandonment issues, her stress from being locked up after being free for part of her life and having a human mother figure, all have taken their toll on beautiful Rachel.
Rachel has been helped though with medication. Knowing we have restrictions in how we can help her and realizing we needed to do more, led me to a decision years ago. Rachel is a social chimpanzee; she needs and loves to be with the others. She has strong bonds to her family group, those she has been at Fauna with from 1997, and, she has a deep and loving relationship with her chosen friend Toby.
Toby arrived here in 2002, a lonely, frightened and very sad guy. His relationship with Rachel has been a warm and loving one. Their friendship is strong, solid and satisfying. They complement each other and share special moments in a group with Chance and Petra, when they want to move over or when Rachel decides to move in with Jethro, Regis, Yoko and whomever else might be there. Rachel really likes choices and the opportunity to join different groups.
She adores being outside in any weather conditions and still desires time alone in her rooms.
Rachel’s journey has been a hard one, but for those of us who see her daily, it is harder and harder to remember her last bad day.