Our Story

By Topo, age 51 (approximately)

My name is Topo. In autumn of 1993, I laid my golden brown eyes on Lesley Day for the first time.  At that moment, I had no idea that she would become a guardian angel for me and other chimpanzees.

The birth of our sanctuary began like this:

Lesley flew from Oregon to upstate New York in 1993 to meet my owner, who claimed to be a chimpanzee expert.  Upon arriving at the grimy mobile home, she saw the small cages that the other chimps and I called home.  We had no outdoor access, and the barred windows were so filthy that no sunlight shone through.  When Lesley wandered down the dingy hallway, my eyes locked with hers and we instantly formed a connection that would change our lives forever.  From our first meeting, Lesley proclaimed her mission in life to offer lifetime sanctuary to chimpanzees in need.

In the two years that followed, Lesley diligently prepared a home for me and made legal arrangements for my journey west.  She purchased indoor cages at an auction from Central Washington University and converted her four-car garage into my new indoor playhouse.  The space was complete with a large outdoor habitat.

When I finally left the dingy trailer park I had been housed in for so many years, I was unsure of my surroundings.  The cross country drive was long and difficult, but as soon as we arrived at our destination, I caught a glimpse of that dark haired lady again and my heart filled with joy.  I entered sanctuary life on October 10, 1995.  After settling in and getting comfortable with my new indoor environment, Lesley opened the door to the most beautiful outdoor enclosure.  For the first time since becoming a victim of the horrible exotic animal pet trade, I felt “free.”  I stood for a moment, taking it all in, and then I sprang out onto the lush green grass and began to run.  I raced from corner to corner of this glorious new place, pant hooting in excitement as I stretched my legs, arms and mind for the first time.  After 24 months of waiting, Lesley had become my legal guardian, and she wasted no time in transforming my captive life from one of imprisonment to one of sanctuary.  Finally, I had the choice to feel the earth under my feet and the sun on my skin.

Little did we know that this was just the first of more rescues just like mine.

I came to the sanctuary with scars, both physical and psychological, from years of complete neglect, trauma and abuse.  Fortunately, Lesley saw a need to protect chimpanzees like me and thus created Chimps Inc.  The sanctuary is now home to six other chimps and two lynx, all of whom were rescued from the pet and entertainment industries. We’ve shared the sanctuary with a few others who left us too soon: two chimpanzees, Kimie and Maggie, one snow leopard, Rose, and one lynx, Katia, all of whom will stay in our hearts forever.

We thank Chimps Inc. and Lesley Day for giving us a second chance at a safe, enriched and comfortable life.