Knuckles

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Knuckles arrived at the Center for Great Apes from a California entertainment compound when he was only two years old.  He was affected with cerebral palsy due to a lack of oxygen during his birth.  His challenges were motor and muscle control, a weakness on the left side, and a lazy eye that didn’t allow him to focus on things.

Most two-year-old chimpanzees swing around actively and climb to tall heights, but Knuckles could not climb and barely walked when he arrived.  When he was placed somewhere, he would just sit there until someone moved him.  Although he couldn’t easily feed himself, he would eat if someone fed him.

Early MRI tests and EEG scans suggested that he was not likely to advance much and would stay the same or get worse.  However, Knuckles has made steady progress and our expectations for him are all good.

After years of help from several dedicated volunteers and staff… as well as therapy from occupational and physical therapists who donated their time to help Knuckles, he has learned to feed himself, climb up and down steps, and pull himself up on special swings to hang upside down and play.  He walks wherever he wants to go and is very aware and cognizant of activities around him.  Knuckles likes to play and be tickled, and is very affectionate.

From the time of his arrival, he was introduced to Grub’s group through the mesh while still an infant.  Grub, Toddy, Kenya, Brooks, and Noelle seemed to know Knuckles was “special” and were very gentle with him.  He eventually began having play sessions one-on-one inside the habitat with each of these chimpanzees, but Grub was always the most gentle with Knuckles and often spent sitting next to him grooming him.   

Our goal has always been to get Knuckles to the point where he can have the companionship of other chimpanzees.  Now an adult male (and more than 130 pounds), his physical therapy from staff still continues but is limited..  Knuckles lives in a special needs habitat built to make movement more manageable for him, and he shares that space with the elderly chimpanzees Clyde and Toddy.  

  • Knuckles was born October 3, 1999
  • Although there have been other great apes with cerebral palsy, we believe that Knuckles may be  the longest lived chimpanzee with that condition
  • Taking on the challenge of raising a severely handicapped chimpanzee had to be carefully considered when we were approached to take Knuckles at the sanctuary.  But, he has continued to exceed most expectations of his potential and abilities and has enriched the lives of not only the chimpanzees he interacts with, but also the staff, volunteers, and visitors who have been inspired by him.
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