Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Fauna days

I think from now on I will dedicate my Wednesday blog posts to telling you about the Fauna Foundation. Fauna is a local animal sanctuary where I work as a volunteer every Tuesday. Sanctuary at Fauna means providing a place of refuge for animals who have come from all sorts of places including the wild, private homes, the biomedical industry, the agricultural industry, and the entertainment industry.

All of the residents at Fauna are living in absolute lifelong retirement. They are not obligated to work, to provide food or be butchered for food, to entertain, or even to act as companions for humans. They are not subjected to isolation, the torture of vivisection, or even simple rejection. Fauna does not exploit their residents for the purposes of human profit nor do they allow their residents to be removed from sanctuary to be placed back into situations where they are subject to these abuses.

Fauna is home to horses, a donkey, llamas, pot-bellied pigs, goats, chimpanzees, capuchin monkeys, dogs, a really friendly white swan and there are probably lots of other animal residents that I haven’t met yet.

Now, I have a regular (paying) job too, and on the days I have to work at my regular job I can hardly drag myself out of bed in the morning. But on Tuesday mornings, as soon as I open my eyes I’m jumping out of bed, all excited to go to Fauna. There is something so special about Fauna - the personal satisfaction I get from volunteering there means more to me than any stinkin’ paycheck ever will.

I work in the chimp house and my job is to prepare “enrichment” packages for the chimps. There are currently 14 chimps at Fauna, 10 are survivors from biomedical research labs and 4 used to be on display at public zoos.

I just can’t find the right words to describe how special these chimps are. I have only been working in the chimp house since the beginning of 2008 and in my job I have no direct contact with the chimps, but from the area where I work I can see some of them and they can see me.

The chimps at Fauna are not kept in tiny cages. They have large indoor and outdoor living areas and they live together in social groups. If you would like to see where they live you can take the tour of the chimp house at this link (just click on “start the tour” at the bottom of the page):

I am always touched by how exceptional and forgiving these chimps are. The first time my heart was touched it was by a chimp named Pepper (who comes from biomedical research). She was craning her neck to try to see me while I worked in the enrichment area. One of the workers, Cindy, noticed that Pepper was trying to see me so she invited me to come and meet Pepper. I have not learned much about chimp behavior yet, but Cindy told me that she could tell that Pepper really liked me. I felt honoured and special and I went home that evening feeling so wonderful. I read everything I could find about Pepper on the Fauna website and discovered that she loves to clean. So each week when I am preparing her enrichment package I make sure to include a scrub brush or a broom & dustpan, or a squeegee or something so that she can indulge in what she enjoys.

A week or two later I was working on enrichment packages and I kept hearing a knocking sound. There is a large bullet-proof glass window overlooking the atrium which is filled with plants that have been brought inside for the winter. On the other side of the window was a chimp named Rachel (also from biomedical research). She was watching me and was knocking on the window to get my attention. I mentioned it to Cindy and she explained that Rachel was knocking because she wanted to see me and that I could go up to the window and press my hand on the glass. Later on that afternoon Rachel came knocking and I went and said hello by pressing my hand to hers through the glass. She looked deep into my eyes for a long time and then made motions with her mouth like she was blowing me kisses. I thought my heart was going to break! Rachel really loves to wear gloves and to look at herself in a mirror, so I always try to make sure that there’s a package with those items for her.

It blows my mind that these chimps willingly make contact with people after all the horrible things that humans have put them through. Their ability to forgive is just astounding. I think we could all take a lesson from these precious souls.

As much as we would love to hug these wonderful chimps, we all need to be careful as chimps are extremely strong – 7 times stronger than humans. Red lines painted on the floor show us the danger zones that are to be avoided when we are walking past the caged areas. The chimps wouldn’t mean to hurt us, but they don’t know their own strength. Yesterday Kim invited me to watch her playing with Yoko (another biomedical research survivor). He is such a sweet little man! They were playing tug-of-war with a bed sheet and it was so endearing to watch. He was having a great time and was laughing and really enjoying himself. His strength was apparent every time he ripped the sheet right out of Kim’s hands. And every time that happened he would offer the end of the sheet back to Kim so that the fun could continue. Poor Kim had a hard time getting her work done yesterday because everybody wanted to play with her!

There are so many heart-warming stories that I can share with you about the Fauna Foundation. I have probably written enough for today, but if you would like to see and learn more about the work being done at Fauna please check out their website at:
The website hasn’t been updated in a while because there is a whole new re-vamped website in the works. But you will find lots of interesting information, stories and some great pictures.
(photos used with permission and provided by the Fauna Foundation)
Enjoy and have a great day!
Kathleen (aka TheNatureNut)


erinpetersonart said...

I'm so jealous of you for being able to do this! I don't think they have something like that around here, but if they did, I'd be there!!!

ThePeachTree said...

What an unbelievable post! I can't wait to hear more next wednesday!

Aimee Dars said...

Amazing! What a great place for these animals!

Hedgelands Glass Lass said...

Wonderfully written post - you transported me somewhere else. I found it very moving to read about this special place and the great work that is being done.

jessicajane said...

very touching post. i look forward to reading more!

UniqueNurseGranny said...

Amazing.Such an interesting account of your experiences.Loved it.

Anonymous said...

That is awesome! I wish I could volunteer my time at a place like that...I love that you care so deeply for animals in need...I think we are kindred spirits! :0)

picciolo said...

what a wonderful place to volunteer! And I love the skunk pictures too. Thanks for leaving a kind comment on my blog
: )

Dulce said...

I am enjoying reading your blog I have been in your Etsy shop before I love it. Until next time.

Rachel said...

Wow, I would love to be able to do something like that as well. I thought about homeless animal shelters but I wouldn't be able to stand not being able to give them all a home. This was the perfect blog to send me to, I will be keeping up with it. I'm such a sap for animals.

Rosebud Collection said...

What a great story, sad and then happy..What a great place to work..

decadentdiamond said...

How wonderful.. I started laughing when I read the tug-of-war paragraph, I could picture it so clearly!

Holly said...

What a wonderful place. How nice that they have you there.