How sweet is the open sky?
A touching video captured the first time Vanilla the chimpanzee – a 29-year-old survivor of New York’s infamous Laboratory for Primate Experimental Medicine and Surgery (LEMSIP) – saw the open sky after arriving at the save the chimpanzees sanctuary in Fort Pierce, Florida.
Vanilla had never been out of a 5-square-foot cage or garage-sized enclosure until she moved in — and at first glance, she’s spellbound by her new monkey abode.
Vanilla lived in the notorious laboratory – which closed in 1997 – until he is 2 years old.
She was then part of a group transferred to California, where she was confined to a larger enclosure at a shelter that closed in 2019 and was threatened by wildfires.
Last year, the chimpanzee sanctuary arranged for FedEx to transport her and her group to the 150-acre Sunshine State site.
In the heartwarming video – which was shared Friday at the American Society of Primatologists symposium in Reno by Save the Chimps primatologist Dr Andrew Halloran – she was greeted with a huge hug by alpha male Dwight as she left her enclosure, looked up at the sky and then explored her new island.
“In California, Vanilla lived with a handful of chimpanzees in a wire cage with no grass and very little enrichment,” Halloran told the Post.
Its new island refuge is home to 226 chimpanzees rejected from laboratories, the entertainment industry, the exotic pet trade and roadside zoos, according to the organization, and many have already endured solitary confinement and have not never interacted with other chimpanzees before.
“Vanilla is settling in really well,” he continued. “When she’s not exploring the island with her friends, she can usually be found perched atop a three-story climbing platform surveying her new world.”
Halloran evaluates the personalities of each new chimpanzee that arrives at the sanctuary to determine which of its 12 island chimpanzee communities is the best match.
And Vanilla has apparently found the right one.
“She gets along well with the other 18 chimps on her island,” Halloran said, “and has a particularly playful relationship with alpha male Dwight — whom she steals food from.”