In 1997, the infamous Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP) in New York shut down. From there, chimps like 2-year-old Vanilla were transferred to California. Although this was a good step in the right direction, their new homes still weren’t what they deserved. The enclosure was larger, but she was still confined inside chain-link fences with very little grass.
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Then, when the refuge went out of business in 2019 due to the threat of wildfires, Vanilla was finally on her way to a 150-acre home in Florida with 226 other chimpanzees. It took Vanilla a bit to adjust to her new surroundings, but the look on her face when she saw the open sky for the first time is absolutely priceless.
“When she’s not exploring the island with her friends, she can usually be found perched atop a three-story climbing platform surveying her new world,” Dr. Andrew Halloran, Save the Chimps’ primatologist said. “She gets along with all of the other 18 chimps on her island and has a particularly playful relationship with the alpha male Dwight – from whom she steals food.”
Watch Vanilla admire the open sky for the first time in the video below.
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