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!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Attorney Says Eli The Chimpanzee Did Not Come From The Casey's Missouri Primate Foundation-Virginia Gini Valbuena

I'm glad to see that this is over and that Virginia-Gini Valbuena was able to provide the proper paperwork to show that Eli, the Chimpanzee did not come from Connie Casey. I don't understand, still, why this all had to go to court, when a simple mouth swab, or the paperwork could have been supplied at the very beginning.

Happy Birthday to Eil.


Polk County, Florida - Eli the chimpanzee turns one year old on Thursday.

His first year of life has been filled with legal proceedings, but those days are behind Eli and his animal baby-raiser, Gini Valbuena. "As for the trial outcome, it never concerned me. We had told the truth from the very beginning," says Valbuena.

Photo Gallery: Chimpanzee caught in custody battle

Last month a Sarasota judge denied chimp breeder Mike Casey's motion to do a DNA test on Eli. Casey believed one of his apes from his Chimp Habitat in Missouri gave birth to Eli. Casey alleged his ex-wife sold the chimp during their divorce.

But the judge concluded Casey had no proof and to go find it.

According to Casey's attorney, after some more "digging," they've dropped the case. Jason Wander says documentation proves Eli does not belong to Casey.

Animal trainers in California bought the $65,000 chimp from another Missouri breeder. Wander says he and his client set out to prove the chimp's family lineage and they accomplished it.

Meanwhile Valbuena says during the months of legal action, Casey tarnished her reputation. She says his case was based on suspicion and greed.

"They accused me of fraud, lying, and grand theft. They slandered me over the Internet for months." She adds, "People know he was not born there. We did not lie about it. All the paperwork has always been in order."

Valbuena's attorney Richard Buckle says, "Monkey see, Monkey do." Buckle says Valbuena will be taking Casey to court. They seek attorney fees from Casey and are considering a civil suit for defamation of character, slander and libel.

Now that the DNA case is over, Eli can worry about being Eli and do what 1-year-old chimps do. It's much like a child: explore and play.

Valbuena describes Eli's day, "He has a bottle and he plays. He has a second bottle and he takes a nap. He has a third bottle and he plays some more."

Valbuena takes the place of a mother chimp. She says his mother did not care for him, so human assistance was needed to raise him. Eli stays close to Valbuena. He often clings to her and is always within her sight.

Gini will care for him and socialize Eli until he's 3 years old. It's the kind of work she's done for more than 40 years.

"I've done this for private trainers, breeders, and zoos over the course of many years," says Valbuena.

But as cute as Eli is, she warns, "He is not a pet. I am not a pet owner. I have 43 years experience and I don't promote great apes as great pets."

While Eli's a baby, Gini says he'll be part of her family.

Isabel Mascarenas
Source and Photograph

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Red Lodge Developer, Jeanne Rizzotto, Must Give Up Properties To Pay Bad Debt To Mr. Casey

A year later and Mr. Casey still waits!!!!!


BILLINGS - A district judge says a Red Lodge developer must give up several properties for failing to pay a $155,000 bad check debt.

Jeanne Rizzotto, 54, was ordered Friday to turn over ownership of four Carbon County properties to James and Connie Casey, who are owed the money.

Rizzotto also must pay the Caseys' attorney fees, give them a security interest on a planned golf course and resort development near Red Lodge, and list all of her assets within 30 days.

Rizzotto has garnered national and local media attention for raising two chimpanzees like children. She also has attracted the attention of Red Lodge health officials, who have ordered her to quarantine her chimps after one of the animals bit a neighbor.

When asked by one the Caseys' attorneys if she had tried to sell her chimps to pay her debts, Rizzotto responded that her "priceless" pets were not for sale.


Chimpanzees DO NOT Make Good Pets

Angus wrote me asking for updates about Moe the Chimp but he also asked if the Montana Chimpanzees will pose a risk to their owner–so rather than just address him, I thought I’d share my response with you as well.

Repeat after me, “Chimps do not make good pets…

Even so, if you have $50,000 in spare change you can buy a chimpanzee for a pet…at least right now you can but interstate trade of captive born chimps may change soon.

This chimp for sale ad made me cringe:

Baby Chimp for Sale: Very tamed, vet checked and approved potty, diaper and crate trained female chimpanzee ready for a loving home. She’s very tamed and not aggressive. She’s home raised and around kids. She’s a playmate for kids and adults and gets along with other pets. She’s going to come with all papers, toys, sample foods and a very large crate. If interested and ready to give this girl the kind of home we are looking for, get back to us for more information.

I find it interesting that people still naively want to believe that chimpanzees can be pets.

Jeanne Rizzotto, the private chimp owner who recently appeared on the Today Show, may believe that they can.

She is scheduled for a court appearance later this week for violating a chimpanzee quarantine order that Rizzotto says she never received notification about.

The quarantine came after Rizzotto’s chimps escaped and a woman was bit.

Allegedly the Realtor’s property was breached and the lock to the chimpanzee enclosure was cut facilitating the chimpanzee escape in 2008 . (The security camera footage is up for review to substantiate this claim.)

Rizzotto’s chimp holding areas include a 7,000-square-foot enclosure with a 2,800-square-foot indoor facility connecting into Rizzotto’s home from a breezeway.

Even so, housing young chimps is a huge liability and captive lives as pets isn’t optimal for the species.

I find it amazing that sales are made to novices without any requirement of training.

Most hobbyists are unprepared to deal with a wild animal and provide for it through it’s entire lifetime–which is why there are so many of these animals in sanctuaries.

Wild animals need consistent environmental enrichment, adequate nutrition, and humans need to have a good understanding of the species and the social dynamics in order to deal with these developing and extremely strong creatures.

Most don’t have any idea of what it takes to deal with an escape, let alone how to mitigate an incident.

Dr. Eric Klaphake said it quite well:

“Of all of the animals I’ve had under my care, my worst nightmares are about chimps getting loose,” he said. “I’d almost rather face a tiger or polar bear.”

Well said. They also have the mental capacity to “fake you out” intentionally.

Most people don’t want to believe chimps (or any other wild animal) remain dangerous or would attack someone that has raised them.

I even have friends (not in the animal profession) that are naive.

For instance, I once took a friend of mine to visit another wild animal trainer I worked with early in my career.

My pal grew up in Africa and has that “isn’t it cute and it won’t hurt me” ideology about any animal.

The trainer had a mature male chimp housed on the premises and she wanted to interact with it.

When we both told her to stay back, she was mortified.

Later, he shared that if the chimpanzee ever escaped that he would have to shoot it.

She gasped in disbelief and would not believe the risk from such a creature.

Believe it.

Now, the issue with the Montana chimpanzees is an interesting one because they are private property and attempts to take them away will probably result in an ugly battle.

But the other issue is that these chimps have not really matured yet–so the worst is yet to come–and there is no telling when it will arrive.

In the wild, chimpanzees are considered infants until they are five and then enter into a juvenile stage from five to seven years of age.

Depending on the gender, adolescence occurs from seven years until 10 to 12 years of age before chimpanzees become sub adults and then enter adulthood.

In captivity these stages seem to occur earlier.

Not to dismiss the dangers of a chimp at any age, but I have to say that things really get hairy as early as two years of age and I’ve been on a set with a male chimp just slightly past that age who was already beginning to be a terror and nobody (other than the veteran animal people) wanted to believe it.

Having worked with chimps previously at a private animal acting facility and in zoos–I don’t have to be convinced and have always known that wild animals remain wild animals even if they are trained animals.

Without good boundaries and training and know how–the Montana Chimps will increasingly become a danger to Rizzotto but not necessarily to others unless they escape again.

It would be good for her to see a male chimpanzee in full display to lodge the image in her head.

Perhaps one like the display I saw when I was preparing an evaluation for my column, Animal Behavior Concerns & Solutions.

I traveled to Northern California where I met a very violent male chimpanzee who held a grudge (he escaped to attack the zoo director and many other exploits) and who exhibited high aggressive displays to make sure everyone knew he was trouble.

He never relented on his display for one minute.

Unless you have seen it or felt how powerful they are in a display, you can’t imagine the intensity or the danger.

The Montana Chimps are just now entering into adolescence.

When chimps enter adolescence and adulthood their hormones escalate and keep pumping through their bodies making them really dangerous.

Hopefully we won’t read of another incident with these two chimps–but if Rizzotto fails to view her animals as the chimps that they are–we probably will.