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November 2004
Portraits of Survival
By Frank Noelker


These portraits are of chimpanzees retired from biomedical research, the entertainment industry, and the pet trade. These individuals now live at the Fauna Foundation sanctuary in Montreal, Canada and the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Florida. Both facilities are committed to issues of animal welfare and enlightenment. They provide safe asylum for the chimps, most of whom have endured years of isolation in metal cages measuring 5’ by 5’ by 7’ in laboratories where they were subjected to invasive surgeries and infectious diseases research. In contrast, the sanctuaries offer the chimps a chance to live out their days in relative peace and comfort.

Frank Noelker is an associate professor of art at the University of Connecticut and a concerned photographer whose portraits of animals reveal their tragic histories as well as their inner beauty [see interview in Satya’s June/July 2004 issue]. For more information about these chimpanzee sanctuaries please visit and


Regis by Frank Noelker Regis
Date of birth: December 28, 1988
Fauna Foundation

Regis was only two when he was treated for his first stress-related event—he chewed his fingernail completely off. The following year he was treated for depression and anorexia (he weighed less than 20 pounds at three years of age). During the three studies he was involved in, he was lethargic, withdrawn and depressed. He refused to eat and drink. When he is particularly stressed he suffers from anxiety attacks during which he nearly stops breathing so badly, he gags and convulses. It took over an hour for this very stressed, very anxious chimpanzee to leave his transport cage and enter his sanctuary home.
Rachel by Frank Noelker Rachel
Date of birth: November 30, 1982
Fauna Foundation

Before Rachel was deposited at LEMSIP she lived as a pet in Florida where she was treated as a human child, dressed in clothes and given bubble baths. When she was three years old, her ‘nanny’ brought her to the lab. She spent the next 11 years living in isolation as a research subject. During this time she was anesthetized 235 times, 147 of these by dart. She endured 39 punch liver biopsies as a subject of Hepatitis research and underwent surgery for the testing of new artificial sweeteners for NutraSweet. She fell into an extended period of depression and was treated repeatedly for rashes and sores on her neck and wrists inflicted on herself during anxiety attacks. She also suffers from the ‘phantom hand’ syndrome, which has caused her to bite all of her nails to the quick, rubbing them until there is nothing left.
Roger by Frank Noelker Roger
Date of Birth: 1980
Center for Great Apes

Roger was born in a roadside zoo where he was pulled from his mother in his first year and sold to a family in Connecticut. When he was three the family sold him to circus trainers who traveled with Ringling Brothers Circus. He stayed in that situation until his handler died in 1993 at which time he was sold to another roadside zoo. There he was placed in the same cage with an adult male orangutan with only a chain link fence to separate them. At some point Roger was castrated. When he was eventually rescued there were considerable problems opening his cage since the lock and even the door had corroded shut. It had been at least three years since he had been allowed out of his cage.
Toddy by Frank Noelker Toddy
Date of Birth: Approximately 1974
Center for Great Apes

Toddy was born in Africa. She was captured in the wild and sold to a family in Florida as a pet. But when she was still an infant, veterinarians discovered she had bullet fragments lodged in her brain. This most likely occurred when her mother was shot so Toddy could be taken. As Toddy grew up, she was passed along from pet owner to a roadside zoo and then to a breeding farm. After several years living with a group of chimpanzees, she was separated due to health problems and kept alone in a small cage for four years. Her only companions were her caregiver at the breeder’s farm and a stuffed toy gorilla that she carried with her at all times.


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