Hi there everybody!
My name is Kassia Fardoe, and as I’m sure you’ve all guessed, I’m a PLLC scholar currently undergoing my stretch experience. This is my first update on PLLC Stretch, but I’m really excited to share about my experience with you all! This summer I have been interning at Chimp Haven, a chimpanzee sanctuary located just outside Shreveport, Louisiana.
To provide you a little background information on the facility, Chimp Haven is the national chimpanzee sanctuary here in the US – primarily providing care to chimpanzees formerly owned by the US government who were used in biomedical research. Currently there are almost 250 chimps here at Chimp Haven, but the facility is currently in the process of expanding (both in population and facility size). Here I am working as a caregiver/husbandry intern, aiding the staff in providing day-to-day care to the chimpanzees. This includes working in areas such as enrichment, security, sanitation, and diet (amongst others).
Interning here has truly tested me and forced me to develop in ways I’d never imagined – even in areas I believed I already excelled at. I have always prided myself on my ability to live life with an empathetic heart, a feature that despite having been developed through years of non-profit and childcare work, I always believed was inherent to my being. Sitting here just over half way through my 9 weeks at this facility however, I am struck by how much I have developed and how much room for personal growth there always is. I currently feel more compassionate, patient, and passionate than ever. While I’m sure some people believe those traits are best developed in interpersonal situations, I have found that working with these animals who have been through so much requires more from me than I have ever experienced. I work harder to learn their stories than I have ever done with those around me, knowing that their inability to tell me their story doesn’t mean they don’t have one. I also work harder to understand than I ever had before, focusing on that unspoken to explain every situation.
These traits are both inherent to who I am now, and representative of the type of leader I hope to be in the future – one who leads with empathy, and understanding. I am truly grateful to be having the opportunity to develop these aspects of my being, and developing into my best self.
Chimp Haven as an organization has also aided my growth tremendously, focusing greatly on the development of their interns. One thing they definitely focus on is initiative, assigning interns to come up with (and implement) projects that will either aid caregivers or serve some purpose to the chimps. They also focus on developing your knowledge base, independence, and teamwork abilities.
To personalize things for you a little bit, I would like to introduce you to two chimpanzees – Henry and Sarah Anne.
This first photograph is of Henry. Henry is the only chimp at Chimp Haven (that I know of) that wasn’t retired from medical research – in fact he was kept as a pet for many years. Formerly known as Fred, the ASPCA in Houston removed him from his home, where he was kept in a small metal cage in a garage for close to 20 years being fed a coca cola, chips and cigarette based diet. When he was removed he was nearly bald and severely malnourished… but look at him now! He has now flourished into a beautiful alpha male, and despite his past is incredibly loving to humans. He is one of my favourite chimps to visit every morning, as he loves to play chase along the play yard fence and “be groomed” with spoons and toys.
This next photograph is of the beautiful Sarah Anne. Sarah Anne is the oldest chimpanzee here at Chimp Haven, nearing on 60 years old. She was born in the wild, and was brought here to the US in the 1960s, where she was used in cognitive studies and learned to read and follow instructions from lexigrams. If you want to learn a little bit more, look up the Sarah (chimpanzee) Wikipedia page!
And that’s all I have for you for now folks! I could talk all day long about the various chimpanzees we have here at the facility, but I have a six AM alarm coming far too soon. Hopefully I will be able to post a little bit more about my experience and these beautiful creatures in the near future!
If you were wanting any more information on Chimp Haven as an organization, feel free to visit chimphaven.org, or check out the feature on Chimp Haven put out by David Suzuki!