Artistic, Poised, Generous
August 15, 1991
Grub, the very first chimpanzee at the sanctuary, was the most wonderful chimpanzee and had many fans & friends, both chimp and human. He sadly passed away October 4th, 2011 from a brief, but terminal illness. He was 20 years old.
Grub started his life in Los Angeles where he was born at an animal trainer’s compound, then pulled from his chimpanzee mother (Oopsie) and sold to a Miami tourist attraction at 12 weeks of age. It was there that Grub, along with the infant orangutan Pongo, came under the care of volunteer Patti Ragan who later became the Founder of the Center for Great Apes.
It was Pongo and Grub (and concern for their future) who provided the impetus to start a sanctuary for orangutans and chimpanzees coming out of entertainment and pet situations. So, it is because of Grub that over 30 chimpanzees have had a home at our sanctuary today.
As the first chimpanzee resident of the Center for Great Apes in 1993, Grub moved to his permanent home in Wauchula in 1998. Here Grub grew up with Kenya, Noelle and Toddy. He also lived and played with other chimpanzees at the sanctuary too - Brooks, Knuckles, Angel, Kodua, Chipper, and his own birth mother Oopsie after she was retired from a California trainer in 2005. Former Hollywood performer Mowgli joined Grub’s group and became his best male friend. But it was Noelle who Grub had the closest bond with, and they spent many hours together in play and grooming sessions.
His most amazing relationship was with our young handicapped chimpanzee, Knuckles, who arrived at the Center from Hollywood when he was two years old. Knuckles had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and had difficulty walking. Grub, Kenya and Noelle all accepted Knuckles into their group for limited playtimes, but Grub was the most gentle with Knuckles and seemed to be fully aware of his limitations and specialness.
Even though Grub was over 145 pounds and his adult male “displays” usually ended with him throwing large barrels into the air, he was always careful around little Knuckles. When Grub once stuck his finger in Knuckles’ mouth (in play)... and received a very hard bite from Knuxie, he ran screaming and holding his finger, but came right back to Knuckles and gently tickled him again. (If any of the other chimpanzees had bitten his finger, he would very likely have retaliated!) When Mowgli joined the group, he was not so gentle with Knuckles and would playfully try to poke him or pull Knuckles' hair through the wire mesh when Knuckles visited that group. But, Grub would keep an eye on Mowgli, and if he saw that Mowgli was getting too rambunctious with Knuckles, Grub would either gently put his hand on Mowgli's arm to stop him... or give him a stern eye to warn Mowgli not to touch Knuckles.
Grub's gentle nature was also evident in his love of dogs. As a youngster, Grub grew up around several dogs that lived at the tourist attraction. He giggled in games of chase with the dogs and would be "over the moon" when they licked his face! As he grew in strength, we had to limit his direct contact for the safety of the dogs. Grub had a golden retriever friend in Wauchula (Joe) who was the happy recipient of monkey chow biscuits that Grub would toss to him... and then play "chase" as Joe ran around the outside of Grub's habitat.
While Grub was a well-known chimpanzee artist (once featured on the NBC Today Show in 1996) and loved to paint, the most striking activity that most people will remember him for was his penchant for mask-making. He learned to make masks when a volunteer made one for him from a paper plate when he was only three years old. He didn't want to wear it...he wanted her to put it on. From that one time, watching the volunteer tear out eye holes, he began to experiment with paper bags, cereal boxes, wrapping paper... and when he couldn't find paper in his habitat, he would pick up fallen leaves and make tiny masks from those. His joy seemed to be in presenting these "Grub-masks" to visitors at the Center and watching them wear the masks. In fact, he made a beautiful mask from a red cereal box for Jane Goodall when she visited him in 2005. We will all miss those special gifts from Grubby.
The entire Center staff is greatly saddened with the loss of this very special chimpanzee at the Center for Great Apes - our precious Grub. But all the wonderful qualities and intelligence expressed by Grub... along with the joy and sweetness he brought to others... are always in our thoughts and memories and did not pass away with him.
If you would like to make a contribution in memory of Grub, please click here. Your donation will help continue the care for his chimp family and orangutan friends and is greatly appreciated.
In mourning the loss of Grub, we also must celebrate his life and continue to provide a home with quality care for all the chimpanzees and orangutans here at the Center. We are very thankful for all of our members and supporters who help make all this possible each year for EVERY great ape at the sanctuary.