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!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tom the Chimpanzee

It was absolutely disgusting to me to see a chimpanzee of Tom’s size living in a cage where he could not possibly stretch out his arms or climb higher than two feet up… This was his home, his playground, and his kitchen… a 5′x5′x7′ cage. To think that Tom had lived like this for over 25 years…just breaks your heart. Seeing the way animals in laboratories are forced to live, and the needless suffering endured - the indignities, the loss of identity - makes me very angry.
— Gloria Grow of Fauna Foundation
Tom’s Story: A Gentle Giant

With gray hair, a freckled face, and a large body, Tom is a likeable fellow. His caregivers describe him as a gentle giant, and say that he is likely to remind you of a dear old uncle.

Born in Africa, Tom was ripped from his family and spent 30 years in labs where he was infected with HIV. He endured over 369 knockdowns, 56 punch liver biopsies, one open liver wedge biopsy, and three lymph node and three bone marrow biopsies. In the lab, Tom was plagued by intestinal parasites, and often had diarrhea and no appetite. When he had strength, he banged constantly on his cage.

Today, Tom lives at Fauna Foundation, but is limited in the social skills necessary to be a part of a group - skills he would have learned from his mother and family in Africa. Instead, he lived alone in barren laboratory cages with little opportunity to be a real chimpanzee among his own kind. However, Tom’s social skills have greatly improved, and he spends time during his days with one or two chimpanzee friends at a time, including Jethro.

Homepage spotlight…

When Allison Argo completed her incredible PBS film, Chimpanzees an Unnatural History she needed an image to leave with the viewer that would, in one scene, say it all. Tom inadvertently obliged the filmmaker through footage taken of him on the day he was first let out on Fauna Foundation’s islands.

The very first time he had been without bars around him in many years, Tom ran without hesitation to the tallest tree and began to climb. Sitting high above it all, he looked around and saw his home of ten years as he never had before. From high up in the tree tops, without bars or walls, he sat – handsome, proud, dignified. Though the scars and images of his past might never leave him, now he has new visions to fill his heart and mind – the horizon, the sunset, the fields surrounding him. Thanks to Fauna, Tom has “a second chance.”

Tom will be a featured chimpanzee in Project R&R’s soon to be released ad campaign to spread the word about the hundreds of others who are waiting for their own release and restitution. Thank you, Tom, for being an ambassador.

Please read Tom’s story below:

Ch-411*: Painting Himself “Normal”

Unlike most chimpanzees whose feet are dark or black, Tom has a pink, scarred foot as a result of an injury. Tom is fully aware of this difference between him and other chimpanzees.

One afternoon, Tom refused his usual choices of colorful paints, canvas, and brush, and instead insisted on having a jar of black paint. Tom dipped his fingers into the jar and methodically applied the black paint to his pink foot, working slowly and carefully to cover every trace of pink. Finally, he stopped, having successfully returned his foot to a “normal” chimpanzee color.

His caregiver at Fauna Foundation described her emotions at witnessing this:

I couldn’t help but feel the tears well up in my eyes. As they rolled down my cheeks, I thought how this man in front of me must feel incredibly self-conscious about his pink foot and how difficult it must be for him to look so different from the others. I was also crying at the thought that this too is something we share with chimpanzees: an acute awareness of what it means …to look different….

For months after this, Tom periodically painted his pink foot with black paint.

Living in a lab for 30 years has left Tom lacking in social skills, and he struggles at Fauna to find a place among his fellow chimpanzees. According to Gloria Grow, “Tom wants to be among others, but he never learned how to be social or to resolve issues with other chimpanzees. But, he is learning.”


Tom’s story is based on information supplied by Fauna Foundation.

Arryn Ketter, “Something Different About Tom”, Fauna Foundation Newsletter (Sept. 2001)

and a photograph of Tom

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