Chimpanzee named Tarzan starts new chapter in life

Save the Chimps is home to more than 250 chimps

A photo of Tarzan, a chimpanzee that spent more than 20 years at an animal sanctuary in Albion. (Photo courtesy Black Pine Animal Sanctuary)
A photo of Tarzan, a chimpanzee that spent more than 20 years at an animal sanctuary in Albion. (Photo courtesy Black Pine Animal Sanctuary)

ALBION, Ind. (WANE) A 35-year-old chimpanzee, who lived alone for several years, now has more than 250 roommates. On Thursday, Tarzan started a new chapter of his life after living at Black Pine Animal Sanctuary for more than two decades.

The exotic animal refuge in Albion was home to Tarzan to and his longtime companion Coby, both retired performers. The couple lived at the sanctuary together for 15 years, until Coby passed away in 2009.

Companionship is an essential part in order for chimps to live and thrive, according to Black Pine. The organization held out hope that another chimpanzee would come to the sanctuary to keep Tarzan company, but after six years of waiting, the organization decided it was time for a new strategy.

That’s when workers fond Save the Chimps (STC), a non-profit organization in Florida dedicated to providing life-long care to chimps rescued from research laboratories, the entertainment industry, and the pet trade. STC is home to more than 250 chimps, including some that lived alone in captivity similar to Tarzan.

Black Pine believes that all exotic animals kept in captivity deserve the right to live and grow at the rhythm and under the conditions of life and freedom peculiar to their species. Allowing Tarzan, who could live to age 50 or more, the opportunity to spend the last chapter of his life among more of his own species was a logical decision.

Black Pine is known for giving displaced, captive-raised exotic animals permanent refuge. However, it made an exception when it came to Tarzan because of chimp’s distinction of being man’s closest relative. Black Pine said chimps and humans share 98% of their DNA.

“This decision was wrought with emotions, but it is the right one,” said Black Pine’s director, Lori Gagen. “This is not the first time, nor will it probably be the last, that we have had to set aside our own personal feelings in order to uphold our mission to continuously improve, save, and change animal lives. Tarzan will always be in our hearts. We look forward to remaining a part of his life through updates from and visits to Save the Chimps.”

While Black Pine leaders will miss Tarzan, his laid-back demeanor and childlike disposition, his departure opens an opportunity to help save more animals.

“Tarzan’s departure is not the end of anything,” said Gagen. “There are still an overwhelming number of captive exotic animals that need and deserve a better life. Our efforts to help as many as we can, as responsibly as possible, will continue.”

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