Watchful, Wise, Dignified My Birthday
Born in 1968My Story
A difficult loss for the Center in 2011 was that of 43-year-old Sam who passed away during the night peacefully in his sleep from heart failure.
Over 40 years ago, Sam worked in the entertainment business until he grew too large and dangerous to work around people. He then spent the next thirty years at a California compound, but never bred any of the females. One possible reason for his breeding inactivity was that Sam lost a testicle while working on a film set when a trained dog in the show bit it off.
Sam lived most of his life (both in California and in Florida) in the company of another male, Bubbles, who was 14 years younger than Sam. The two adult males were best friends and spent time together grooming and playing even though Sam was over 40 years old.
He often sat high up in his habitat in the 34-foot high cupola staring out at the surrounding countryside and orange groves. On balmy nights, Sam liked to make his nest of blankets and sleep outside in the lofty tower.
Both Sam and Bubbles had always been gentle with younger chimpanzees and were used at the California entertainment compound to socialize the former working chimps back into chimpanzee groupings.
During his later years at Center for Great Apes, Sam lived with Oopsie and her family, including infants Kodua and Stryker. The babies loved Sam! They would jump on him, ride on his back, tease him, and generally do anything to get his attention. He patiently endured their pestering and always ended up tickling or grooming both Stryker and Kodua. One of the most endearing photographs ever taken at the Center is that of Sam lovingly tickling little Kodua, much to her extreme glee.
Sam’s last day alive was spent in the company of his group, being groomed by Oopsie and playing with youngster Bobby-Stryker. When he was found in his nest early the next the morning, Oopsie and her family were allowed to come into Sam’s room to say goodbye to him. It was a very moving moment when 40-year-old Oopsie sat silently next to Sam for about 30 minutes, occasionally patting his body and arranging his blankets. Our staff members miss Sam very much, and so does his chimpanzee family.