A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. … I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.Isaiah 42:3–4, 6–7
Imagine being confined to a dark windowless cell that measures approximately 8 feet by 16 feet, roughly the size of a walk-in closet. Iris didn’t have to imagine it: That’s where the 32-year-old chimpanzee was found at Chestatee Wildlife Preserve & Zoo, a seedy roadside zoo in Georgia.
The cell was cleaned only about twice a week (even though the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued instructions requiring that it be cleaned daily), so she often lived amid her own waste. Her meals were slid to her through a slot in the wall, as if she were an inmate at a high-security prison. The tiny cell had nothing for her to climb on, and she had no one to play with and essentially nothing to look at except four blank walls. The picture of abject despair, she was often found huddled under a filthy blanket in the unheated cell, and she sometimes smeared her own feces on the cell walls.
Occasionally, Iris was allowed into a slightly larger concrete cell, but it was scattered with feces and dead cockroaches, and spiders crawled among the cobwebs on the ceiling and walls.
After years of solitary confinement and deprivation, Iris was a sorry sight. She was pale and overweight, and her legs were underdeveloped, likely from a lack of opportunities to climb or exercise. She was missing her canine teeth, which likely had been pulled out to make her easier to handle.
But thanks to a generous PETA member, Iris has seen the last of this hell on Earth. Earlier this month, she was transported to the lush tropical Save the Chimps, an accredited sanctuary in Florida.
Just days after arriving at Save the Chimps, Iris was introduced to another rescued chimpanzee named Abdul, and they were immediately smitten with each other, panting and hooting with delight, exchanging kisses and hugs, and grooming each other like old friends. Normally, such introductions take months, but for Iris and Abdul, it was love at first sight. Iris continues to be introduced to more chimpanzees and will soon have the opportunity to live on a large island with plenty of trees and structures for climbing and playing.
PETA has filed legal complaints with several agencies and called on them to investigate Chestatee’s apparent violations of animal-protection and worker-safety laws.