How Clyde the Chimpanzee Received a New Chance at Life

April 8, 2014

For 47-year-old Clyde the chimpanzee, rising above difficult early circumstances has led to dramatically positive changes. Moreover, his three years of residence in the natural-style habitat at the accredited sanctuary Center for Great Apes has resulted in a chance at a new life.

Kept for decades in a garage with no sunlight, Clyde grew up with shelves and a tire swing as his main companions.

But the progress he has made since his November 2011 rescue by the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Florida — including his newfound confidence and recent female friend — has astounded his caregivers.

(Read about Clyde’s early story and progress here)

“We can’t believe how well he’s doing” with his new female friend, Toddy, said Casey Taylor, development manager at Center for Great Apes, home to more than 40 great apes and accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries for its high standards of care. “They are the cutest little elderly couple and he’s come a long, long way.”

Clyde has made tremendous progress even within the past year, before which he lived in his own area within the 21-year-old sanctuary. During the past year, Clyde had little contact with the other chimpanzees, many of whom were rescued from the entertainment industry, unaccredited zoos, and biomedical research.

“Clyde met Toddy through the mesh of the habitat, called a ‘howdy,’ through which the apes can touch and groom, and their meeting went well – they went from being able to touch each other and then moved on to being in the same room,” Taylor said. Touch and grooming, which are essential for the well-being of all apes, were activities the chimps were often deprived of prior to their arrival at Center for Great Apes.

Shortly after his initial arrival at the sanctuary, Clyde seemed to be fearful of even traveling within the sanctuary’s chutes (which connect all the enclosures and allow the apes to explore the sanctuary’s property, an important part of enrichment activities that promote the well-being of apes in captivity).

‘The more he’s outside, the more he wants to be outside’

“He stayed in his little habitat and slept on his little nesting shelf in the sun. The first time he went out, the door opened to his chute and he took a leaf out with him into the chute for comfort and walked through,” adding that bamboo shoots were installed within the chute for Clyde to grip. “Now he prefers to be out in the chutes — so, going from being somewhere with no sunlight [in the garage] to being out in it. The more he’s outside, the more he wants to be outside.”

Clyde’s positive changes, Taylor said, include “his confidence level and he’s a very brave guy now — and happy!”

“Clyde had a couple boomer balls [large, durable toy balls] in their habitat, Toddy’s sitting on the other side, and he rolled one to her and she looked like ‘oh, I have a ball!’ so he rolled the other ball to her, clearly wanting her to roll it back — he’s teaching her games,” Taylor said.

Generally, when apes arrive at the sanctuary after being rescued, “they’re very humanized and you can’t just throw them into a group with chimpanzees,” Taylor said. “That’s the best thing we can do here, is to provide friendships with animals of their own species.”

“I don’t think people realize how intelligent they are and how they need this interaction,” she added. “It’s really incredible to see their personalities and how they deal with things day to day.

“Once [they’re rescued], that’s where the work begins, getting them physically and mentally healthy. And for them to go from arriving wearing pearls and carrying a purse to living with their chimp family group, truly happy and enjoying their life.”