Advocating for True Sanctuary for Hercules and Leo

A close-up photograph of chimpanzee Hercules at Project Chimps. Credit: Crystal Alba

A close-up photograph of chimpanzee Hercules at Project Chimps. Credit: Crystal Alba

By Courtney Fern on March 22, 2021

Today is the first day of our week of action in recognition of the suffering our clients have endured as a result of their imprisonment and with the hope they will soon be able to live freely and with peace and dignity.

A close-up photograph of chimpanzee Leo at Project Chimps. Credit: Crystal Alba

A close-up photograph of chimpanzee Leo at Project Chimps. Credit: Crystal Alba

Yesterday, March 21st, was the third anniversary of Hercules and Leo’s transfer from the New Iberia Research Center to Project Chimps. Last year, whistleblowers brought to light well-documented information that showed Project Chimps and the Humane Society of the United States (Project Chimps’ primary funder) were not fulfilling their commitment to provide true sanctuary to Project Chimps’ chimpanzee residents, including the NhRP’s clients Hercules and Leo. The NhRP called on Project Chimps and HSUS to take whatever steps and devote whatever resources are necessary to immediately provide Hercules and Leo with daily access to an outdoor habitat. To our knowledge, Hercules and Leo still spend a majority of their time confined to their housing structure.

Actions of the Day:

  • Email Kitty Block, President and CEO of HSUS, and ask that Hercules and Leo are immediately provided with daily access to the outdoor habitat at Project Chimps. Kitty Block can be reached at A sample email: Dear Ms. Block, I am writing out of deep concern for Hercules and Leo, two chimpanzee residents of Project Chimps. Hercules and Leo suffered for years in a basement laboratory at Stony Brook University where they were subjected to invasive locomotion studies. Three years ago, Hercules and Leo were transferred to Project Chimps, which, at the time, claimed that they would spend the remainder of their lives at the sanctuary napping, foraging, and climbing pine trees. However, three years since their arrival at Project Chimps, their lives resemble nothing of what was promised. Hercules and Leo are confined to an indoor housing structure and an enclosed porch for all but a few hours a week. Outdoor access is integral to Hercules and Leo’s ability to exercise their autonomy and their physical and psychological health. Your organization took on the responsibility to provide lifetime care to Hercules and Leo and it is HSUS’ duty to provide them with true sanctuary, which includes the freedom to choose how to spend their days. I am deeply troubled that an organization with as ample resources as HSUS has not allocated funds to either expand the existing habitat at Project Chimps or build out a new one. Please take all steps necessary to immediately provide Hercules and Leo with daily access to an outdoor habitat. Sincerely,
    [Your name]
  • Tweet at HSUS and Project Chimps asking that they do whatever necessary to provide Hercules and Leo with daily access to the outdoor habitat. A sample tweet is: “The @HumaneSociety and @ProjectChimps have deprived Hercules and Leo of true sanctuary for the past 3 years, confining them to housing structures for all but a few hours every week. This is unacceptable. Please immediately provide them with daily access to the outdoor habitat.” If you do not have Twitter or prefer to advocate on another social media platform, you can still help by sharing this blog post.

Thank you! Courtney Fern is the NhRP’s Director of Government Relations and Campaigns.

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Rest in Peace Milo

Sanctuaries for Dolphins

To a better life

Petition: Ranoo the bear is suffering to death at this zoo. Demand she be sent to a sanctuary!

40,913 SUPPORTERS 45,000 GOAL Celebrities in Pakistan are sounding the alarm about a desolate bear, imprisoned in a zoo where she is in desperate need of immediate care. Otherwise, animal lovers fear she may die.

Tell authorities in Pakistan to follow their citizens’ demands and release this poor, suffering bear to an appropriate sanctuary now!

A video has started circulating online exposing the horrible reality for a female bear named Ranoo, who is kept captive in the subpar facilities of the Karachi Zoo in Karachi, Pakistan. In the video, the bear is shown panting in the immense, scorching heat, surrounded by a sparse environment offering little in the way of shade or relief.

Zoogoers observed that the bear appears both extremely hungry and thirsty, with no food or water in sight. Her fur appears extremely matted and ragged, while her nails are overgrown, suggesting serious negligence. Experts say that the poor, imprisoned animal is not even being treated with proper medical care.

Meanwhile, Ranoo is also struggling with the pain of having been separated from her family. While the rest of her bear community is back in the Pakistani city of Skardu, she was torn away in order to entertain paying guests at the Karachi Zoo’s shameful facilities. Now, she lives her whole life under lock and key, in a small and barren enclosure, all on her own. In fact, she is the only bear living at the zoo. Even Murtaza Wahab Siddiqui, an advisor on Law and Environment to the Chief Minister of Sindh, admitted that “there may be issues of loneliness since she is the only bear…”

Despite her horrible condition, officials in the country do not appear to be concerned. In response to the uproar from multiple celebrities as well as citizens throughout Pakistan, Murtaza Wahab Siddiqui tried to reassure the public that all was well. He claimed the poor, mangy animal was “in stable health condition” and was “being looked after.”

This is clearly not the case. Even worse, authorities in Pakistan already have not been taking negligence and animal abuse at zoos seriously. Several months ago, in July 2020, a fire that broke out at Islamabad Zoo — combined with staff members’ inaction — caused two lions to actually burn to death.

As actor Ushna Shah wrote to her fans on Instagram: “Do not support zoos or marine animal shows and please educate your family and friends against them. Make them understand that such exhibits are cruel.” We wholeheartedly agree.

We can’t trust anything the authorities say when it comes to this poor bear’s health. The only thing we can do is demand that she be released to a sanctuary — along with her whole family — to spend the rest of her days in peace.

Sign the petition to demand that Ranoo the bear be reunited with her family, and that the whole bear group is sent to a reputable sanctuary!EMBED

Britain’s oldest polar bear dies aged 22 at Yorkshire Wildlife Park

By Joseph Laws For Mailonline 16:55 22 Aug 2020, updated 17:13 22 Aug 2020

  • Oldest polar bear in Britain dies aged 22 after suddenly falling ill in wildlife park
  • He had terminal kidney failure and after he suddenly fell ill vets put him to sleep 
  • Victor was rehomed in Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster in 2014

Britain’s oldest polar bear has died aged 22 after falling ill on Friday.

The animal, named Victor, was living at Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster after being moved from various zoos in Europe. 

He had terminal kidney failure and after he suddenly fell ill, vets put him to sleep. The animal, named Victor, was living at Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster after being moved from various zoos in Europe

Victor was born at Rostock Zoo in Germany, before moving to Rhenen in the Netherlands. 

After he retired from the European breeding programme, he was rehomed in Yorkshire in 2014. He fathered 13 cubs during his time in the breeding programme.

The directors of the park thanked the team of vets from Portland House Veterinary Group who responded so quickly and the ‘dedicated’ team who had ‘loved and cared’ for the bear since his arrival.

Yorkshire Wildlife Park said: ‘Victor was a great ambassador for his species, inspiring generations and drawing attention to the plight of his species in the wild and the threat of climate change. He will be greatly missed by everyone.’ The animal, named Victor, was living at Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster after being moved from various zoos in Europe

Two beluga whales complete journey from captivity in China to care sanctuary in Iceland

Nevertheless, a pair of belugas, named Little Grey and Little White, are enjoying their first taste of the sea since 2011, thanks to a leviathan relocation project that has been years in the making.

After being captured at a very young age off the coast of Russiaand spending years in a Chinese aquarium, the whales are about to get used to the freedom of an 8-acre sanctuary at Klettsvik Bay in Iceland.

“It’s been quite the journey for these two,” Audrey Padgett, the Beluga Whale Sanctuary’s general manager, told CNN on a video call in front of the belugas. “It hasn’t been easy, but it’s definitely been a labor of love.”

Back in 2011, Little Grey and Little White were moved from a Russian research facility to the Changfeng Ocean World aquarium in Shanghai. The following year, the aquarium was bought by Merlin Entertainments, a company opposed to keeping whales and dolphins in captivity.
And so the idea of taking the whales back to the sea was born.

The belugas’ new home, run by the Sea Life Trust charity, is a much “larger, natural environment” with lots of potential benefits, Padgett said.

More than 300 belugas are in captivity around the world, she told CNN.

“Some belugas are in cramped and unsuitable conditions,” she added. “And if what we can learn here from Little White and Little Grey can help improve welfare for other animals … that’s really the point.”

Although Padgett wasn’t involved in the logistics of transporting the whales from China, she stressed that moving two belugas was no easy task.

They each weigh a little more than a ton and consume around 110 pounds of fish per day between them.

The operation involved specially designed equipment, veterinarians and a whole lot of water and ice to keep them hosed down, Padgett said.

The belugas had bespoke “stretchers” or slings to move them overland, and the team did “practice runs” to get them used to being moved via trucks, tugboats and cranes, according to Padgett.

“If you’re trying to take your cat or your dog somewhere, you want them to have a positive association with travel … We had to make the belugas a comfortable as possible,” Padgett continued.

After their arrival in Iceland, the whales were kept in a care facility with a quarantine pool for several months,to allow them to adjust to the colder Icelandic environment.

And though the final leg of the journeyfrom the care facility to the sanctuary was a shorter one, the Covid-19 pandemic complicated it significantly.

“We’re already in a pretty remote location here in Iceland. It affected our ability to get experts here to help us with the move. It affected our ability to get supplies and just the length of time it took to do things,” Padgett told CNN.

“We also needed to protect our staff and put them into quarantine, because we need our people to take care of our animals.”

Little Grey and Little White’s odyssey isn’t quite over. They are currently in an “acclimatization space” within the sanctuarythat will allow them to adjust safely to their new home.

Padgett says, however, that they will have free rein of the sanctuary any day now.

Little Grey and Little White will be assessed around the clockas they get used to being back in the ocean environment.

And while the whales benefit from more space to explore and new kinds of seaweed, kelp and fish to enjoy, the whole operation also helps humans understand belugas better, Padgett explains.

“It’s kind of the finish line for these two,” she said, “but it’s a new chapter for belugas around the world.”

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Published on the 18th of June, 2020

Ndugu was a majestic bull who called the Kibwezi Forest home. His name means “brother” in Swahili — and the Keepers dubbed him such, as he had become like a big brother to our Umani Springs herd. The friendship was not immediate. At first, he observed the group from a distance, nothing more than a hulking shadow in the dense undergrowth. As he grew more comfortable in their presence, he moved out into the open glades where they enjoyed the salt licks and mud baths. His appearances caused much excitement among our babies, and eventually they mustered up the courage to walk right up to him.

In the course of their daily adventures, our orphans encounter many wild elephants in the Kibwezi Forest. Many friendships have been forged from these interactions, but Ndugu has a special place in our hearts. He was truly a friend to all of us, with his comforting presence and his gentle demeanor. Ndugu never hassled the Keepers or gave them any cause for alarm; it was as if he understood the pivotal role they play in this unusual herd.

Ndugu was not a perennial visitor. As is typical of bulls, who act as the scouts of elephant society, he would remain in the forest for a few months at a time before journeying on. The Keepers and orphans were delighted whenever he made his regular pilgrimage back to Umani Springs, growing more friendly with each passing year. The feeling was clearly mutual: Ndugu would often accompany the herd back to their stockades and see them off for the night. It wasn’t unusual for him to then remain in the vicinity, sometimes even sleeping outside the compound. When four of our orphans started spending nights away from the stockades and out in the forest, Ndugu frequently served as their chaperone. We can’t imagine how reassuring it must have been for the orphans to have their older friend by their sides.

The Umani Springs herd enjoyed Ndugu’s company throughout April and into May, before he disappeared once more. After an absence of three weeks, our Keepers were shocked to find him standing by the mud bath, clearly in distress. Upon closer inspection, they realised he was suffering from a seriously infected injury. They immediately alerted the SWT/KWS Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit, and Dr. Poghon was able to walk right up to him to dart him with anaesthetic. It appeared that he had been wounded during a fight with another bull. His right ear bore a hole the diameter of a tusk, along with a deep puncture between his scapula and another injury on his left shoulder. After cleaning and massive doses of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories administered, he managed to get back to his feet, but Dr. Poghon gave him a guarded prognosis given how severe and infected his injuries were.

We continued to keep a close eye on our friend. He remained in the area, limping heavily between the forest and the glade. After dousing his wounds with mud, he would lie on the ground or give himself a gentle mud bath, which seemed to alleviate his pain. Ndugu was there when Luggard and Enkesha graduated to Umani Springs. He watched the proceedings closely, showing visible interest in the new arrivals, but it was clear he was not doing well and we could smell the sepsis setting in. Still, he remained a regal presence, standing like a statue in the mud bath and splashing water on his shoulders. Shukuru, who knows something of overcoming great physical difficulties, was clearly concerned about her friend and ventured up to his side to check on him.

She wasn’t the only one. Frustratingly and tragically, there was nothing more we could do for him at this early stage. M99, which is used to anaesthetise elephants, has a revival drug. While that remains in the bloodstream, anaesthetic can’t be used again for some time, as the revival then becomes ineffective and the elephant will never wake up. A minimum of two weeks must pass before we can even consider a follow-up treatment. As dawn broke the next day, Ndugu was still standing in the mud bath, and shortly thereafter he lay down. Hearts sinking, our team rushed to his side. It appeared he no longer had the strength to rise, so we mobilised vehicles to try to help him back on his feet. That was not to be, for just then, he took his last breath and passed away before their eyes.

Ndugu’s death affected everyone deeply. It is difficult to reconcile why such a magnificent friend should meet such a senseless end. We took him deep into the forest to his final resting place away from where the orphans frequent. It is a peaceful place, situated among the leafy trees that Ndugu loved so much.

We are glad that our orphans did not witness Ndugu’s passing. Many members of our Umani Springs herd lost their mothers before their very eyes, and we fear that seeing their friend’s lifeless form would have evoked traumatic memories. They may never know where his last safari took him or why he never returned, but they can imagine him spirited away, off on a grand adventure. Given how intuitive elephants are, however, it is likely that they realised how much he was suffering and, deep down, understand his fate.

Although we only knew Ndugu for a few years, he made an indelible impact. His life was cut short, but there is no doubt that it was a life well-lived. He was an elephant full of curiosity and empathy, an elephant who opened his heart to our unique Umani Springs herd and gave so much of himself to them.

Rest in peace, beautiful brother. You are and will always be deeply missed, but may your giant spirit watch over the beautiful Kibwezi Forest.