During the holidays, we tend to spend a lot of time reverting to childhood memories, and sometimes childhood actions. Some of my favorite Saturday mornings in the gold-and-orange shag carpeted family room at home, when I was a kid, were spent watching Tarzan movies. I was obsessed with the idea of talking to animals, but knew I could never be as stuffy as Dr. Doolittle…swinging from the trees was much more my dreamstyle. A sad bit of news came over the holiday season. The chimp, known as Cheetah, who starred in the Tarzan flicks with Johnny Weismuller and Maureen O’Sullivan, passed away at the presumed age of 80 years (since the news, there has been lots of controversy about whether this was the actual animal performer from the films of the 1930s, whether chimps can possibly live to 80, and more…but that’s not the most important point, here). Cheetah had been living at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor, Florida, for the past 50 years.
What is important, to my mind, is the awareness of the opportunities to volunteer with primates in sanctuaries. Orphans, rescues, surrendered pets and laboratory animals…all of them find protection, rehabilitation, and nurturing care at sanctuaries across the United States (and, of course, there are plenty of international organizations doing this important work as well.)
The Humane Society lists several US primate protection facilities that rely upon volunteers like you and me. Check some of these out if you are looking to do a little animal activism in 2012 (links below are to the volunteer pages on their websites, for more information):
Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Florida, needs volunteers for ape care, enrichment and stimulation activities, office help, fundraising, and groundskeeping.
Chimp Haven is in Keithville, Louisianna. They need volunteer help with special events, education/school programs, sanctuary care, community awareness, and advocacy.
Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest of Cle Elum, Washington, is looking for you to help with habitat maintenance and construction, and kitchen help.
Chimps, Inc. in Bend, Oregon, is reaching out, hoping you’ll want to dive in and assist with animal care, enrichment, drivers, maintenance, office & mailing, or fundraising and special events.
Primate Rescue Center in Nicholasville, Kentucky, is looking for volunteers to work directly in the care and rehabilitaion of more than 50 primates.
Save the Chimps of Fort Pierce, Florida as well as Alamagordo, New Mexico, use volunteers for preparing meals for the chimps, maintenance and cleaning/laundry, enrichment, and gardening/greenscare for the facilities.
Suncoast Primate Sanctuary (where Cheetah lived out his days) in Palm Harbor, Florida, is an all-volunteer-run organization, where you can help with animal care, as a docent, or administratively in the office.