It’s heartbreaking to think how many animals spend their whole lives locked up in captivity, never knowing any world outside their cage.
That was the case for one chimpanzee, who recently got her first taste of freedom after a lifetime of confinement — and her reaction to seeing the sky for the first time will bring a tear to your eye.
Vanilla is a 28-year-old chimpanzee who has spent her entire life in strict captivity. She spent her first years of life in a notorious biomedical research laboratory in New York, separated from her mother so she would be easier to experiment on.
“It was a horrible lab and protested by animal rights activists for decades. Jane Goodall targeted the place as a hellhole,” Dan Mathews of Save the Chimps told the New York Post. “The chimps there watched TV and never saw the light of day.”
Vanilla was later transferred to a sanctuary in California. While she was free from being experimented on, the views weren’t much nicer: according to WFLA, she was kept in a chain-link fence cage with no grass or enrichments.
“She had never been outside of a lab cage or the garage-sized enclosure she was transferred to in California,” Save the Chimps told the WFLA.
But last year, she and her sister Shake were transferred to Save the Chimps, a nonprofit animal sanctuary in Fort Pierce, Florida — and it proved to be a stunning change of scenery.
In a video shared by Save the Chimps, Vanilla is in awe after seeing the sky for the first time in her life.
The sanctuary wrote that Vanilla was apprehensive about stepping outside at all, but alpha chimp Dwight encourages her and gives her a hug. Soon, Vanilla sees the blue sky she’s been missing all her life, and can’t help but marvel.
“She is clearly elated to have suddenly found freedom,” Dan Mathews told the Post.
Later in the video we see Vanilla walk across the three-acre island, enjoying the grass, fresh air and enrichments she had been denied her whole life.
After a rough start to life, things are looking up for Vanilla. Save the Chimps wrote that Vanilla and Shake “regularly enjoy the freedom” of the sanctuary and bond well with their fellow chimpanzees.
“She gets along with all of the other 18 chimps on her island, and has a particularly playful relationship with the alpha male Dwight, from whom she steals food,” the sanctuary told WFLA.
“Vanilla has a long future; she can live here for another 30 or 40 years,” Matthews said. “She seems elated to have her own world, to finally have the closest thing to a natural habitat. She is embracing it.”
Watch the video below:
That’s so beautiful ❤️ We’re so glad Vanilla finally has the freedom she deserves and will never be kept in a cage again — enjoy your blue skies, Vanilla!
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