Denyse, our lovely "grande dame" chimpanzee, passed away from kidney disease that had progressed to kidney failure.
At 46 years of age, Denyse was one of our great ape elders. She came to us from the backyard of a private pet owner, where she spent more than 30 years in a tiny cage, never knowing that she was a chimpanzee who had been born—and was meant to live—in the wild. When she first arrived at the sanctuary, Denyse had assorted health problems that had accumulated from decades of eating junk food, smoking cigarettes, and drinking beer. It took many, many months to get her on a healthy diet—and weaned off of beer!
Most likely a holdover behavior from her many years as a private pet, Denyse loved to sit in chairs and usually had at least one plastic chair in her nighthouse or outside habitat. When a caregiver or any volunteer would come over to talk to Denyse, she would first go find her chair… then carry in over to where the person was standing (carefully setting it down in place) and then climb up to sit near her visitor.
Denyse enjoyed 13 years of good health here. She was quite attached to her human caregivers and had many friends at the sanctuary. While sanctuary work helping great apes like Denyse can be so rewarding and heartwarming, it is heartbreaking when we lose them. The essence and memory of Denyse's intelligence, humor, and happy disposition will always be part of the Center. It's hard to forget someone who gave you so much to remember. In fact, we are honoring her by naming our new chimpanzee nighthouse—which opens in November 2016—"Denyse's Den."