Swing and Doll, two chimpanzees who were rescued from a research lab, still remember the woman who saved them. Their reunion, 20 years later, shows how strong the bonds are between primates and humans.
13. 98% Human DNA
Swing and Doll are two chimpanzees who lived in cages because they were subject to animal testing. Since chimps have 98% of the DNA of human beings, they are highly sought after as research subjects. However, as people learn more about the similarities between humans and chimpanzees, the ethics of animal testing appear morally wrong.
12. Vaccine Test Subjects
That was the conclusion of a woman named Linda Koebner, who was a behaviorist back in 1976. Linda was an undergraduate student when she helped rescue them from their laboratory cages. The chimps had been used in animal testing for vaccines before being unceremoniously dumped by research teams after a vaccine was found.
11. The Wisdom of the Wild
Linda Koebner was the founder of a sanctuary called Chimp Haven in Louisiana. During her four years with Swing and Doll, she spent hundreds of hours training them in how to live in the natural world, as they would have done if not for their captivity as test subjects. Linda’s work is part of a documentary called The Wisdom of the Wild.
10. Afraid to Leave the Cages
Linda’s goal in saving their lives was always to return them to living conditions that were as similar as possible to what they would have experienced in the wild. However, this was no easy task. She said at first, they did not understand how to exit the cages. “They were terrified to get out of the security of their transport cages.”
9. A Terrible Fate
“Whether it was afraid to step on the grass, they hadn’t been on anything but hard bars for years, or just the feel of the wind and the sun,” Linda recalled. “They just huddled in the doorways and wouldn’t come out.” This is the terrible fate for so many animals who were trapped in labs.
Swing and Doll had not seen sunlight for six long years when they lived in the lab. They were kept in steel cages and had little opportunity to play or socialize with their own kind. Linda eventually helped them learn to socialize and perform tasks that all chimpanzees learn in the wild. Then they went to a sanctuary in Florida.
7. Reunion Day
Finally, after 20 years apart, Linda got the opportunity to see Swing and Doll again when she visited the island in South Florida where they live outdoors. The first thing they did was greet her with outstretched arms and huge smiles. They knew exactly who she was, despite decades of being apart.
6. Emotional Return
Swing is the first chimp who runs to greet Linda as her boat pulls into view. She holds her hand out and breaks into a big smile. Then Doll seems to realize this is a true reunion, as he runs over to connect with his old friend, too. Linda is overwhelmed with emotions.
5. They Remember
“Do you remember me?” Linda says. The chimps leave absolutely no doubt as they smile at her with love. “It’s been so long. Oh, you look great,” Linda says excitedly. In the documentary, Linda explains that “chimpanzees have provided us so much in this world. So much knowledge about ourselves, about our social lives, about our dispositions, because they are so much like us as beings.”
4. Banned as Test Subjects
Shockingly, chimps were only banned as test subjects in America within the last two years. Although chimps cannot be used in animal research, hundreds of them are still imprisoned in labs, waiting for someone to take them to a sanctuary.
3. Chimp Haven
Linda’s Chimp Haven came about in 1995 as a place where they could go when the labs no longer wanted the chimps for testing. About 1,600 chimps were used as test subjects. The Haven consists of 200 acres of grass and woods with room for hundreds of chimps to climb and play.
2. Government Funding
In 1991 Congress passed the so-called Chimp Act, dedicating up to $30 million to care for chimps who had been involved in federal research labs or owned by the government. Some of the funds were given to Chimp Haven. The rest comes from private donations.
Linda noted that she learned a lot from her friends. “These chimpanzees have taught me about resilience. All of these have gone through such tremendous adversity, and yet they’re forgiving, and they’re whole again.” That is the reason she dedicated most of her life to their care.