The Little Rock Zoo

.The Little Rock Zoo needs to step up and care for the animals better! Please read the several artciles here with deaths, sickness and a bald chimp!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Chimpanzees Exploited in Florida, Gini Valbuena

For a fee, you can cuddle with Tanzania Marie, a 4-year-old chimpanzee, and Kenya, a baby chimp.

[Times photo: Douglas R. Clifford]
Tanzania Marie, 4, stops to don her sunglasses Tuesday before tying Kelly Kurst's shoe at Valbuena Chimps, located in Gini Valbuena's Clearwater home.

© St. Petersburg Times
published July 5, 2002

CLEARWATER -- After you sign a release, wash your hands and swear you haven't had as much as a sniffle in two weeks, you can paint a masterpiece with 4-year-old Tanzania Marie.

Or brush her hair.

Or let her brush yours.

Or simply cuddle under a tree.

One thing is for sure: You can't get this kind of primate love from the other side of a wire cage at the Edge of Africa in Busch Gardens where monkeys and humans just stare at each other.

In May, Valbuena Chimps, located in Gini Valbuena's Clearwater house, started offering pay-for-play sessions with Tanzania, nicknamed Tanzee, and a baby chimpanzee, Kenya, 10 months.

It is "the only place in Pinellas County where you can do this," said Valbuena, the chimps' owner. She is licensed to own the animals by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

All this monkeying around doesn't come cheap. It costs $100 per hour for two people, and $25 for each additional person.

Once a group arrives at Valbuena's house, they are given a list of dos and don'ts, and are then led to the nursery where 9-pound Kenya is waiting in diapers.

"The baby just plays," Valbuena said. "She's just darling."

Even though Kenya doesn't do much yet, her effect on guests can be overwhelming.

"They say, "This is something I've wanted to do all my life ... hold one,' " said Valbuena. "We've had people cry when they hold the baby."

Hopping around somewhere nearby will be Sydney, the 9-month-old kangaroo.

Guests can also play with him. But they can't play with 6-year-old Kaos, a gentle chimpanzee who already has his permanent teeth and doesn't know his own strength.

"They are eight times stronger than a human pound for pound," Valbuena said.

After about a half-hour, guests are introduced to Tanzee, who usually is waiting in the back yard.

Tanzee has a thing for shoes, especially sneakers with laces. She loves to unlace them and lace them back up.

She's "pretty good" about getting the laces in the right holes and around the little hooks, Valbuena said.

If you spoon-feed her a cup of fruit cocktail or Jell-O, she'll be your best friend.

But don't, whatever you do, give her a bottle of Aquafina. It's too boring.

"They're insulted if a guest brings bottled water," Valbuena said. "Bring Gatorade or fruit juice."

After a long day of playing with humans, Tanzee and Kenya settle into their highchairs and eat dinner, then retire to their bedroom to watch videos.

"They like adventure movies with chimps and horses," Valbuena said. "When Tarzan is running and a lion is chasing him they'll holler to try and warn him."

If you go

Valbuena Chimps is now offering "Pay-to-Play" sessions with its two young chimpanzees. An hour long session costs $100 for two people, $25 for each additional person. Children younger than 10 cannot play with the baby chimp. No video cameras allowed, but still cameras are welcome. The chimps love fruit and Jell-O. For information, call (727) 797-7490."


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