From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2012:
Oliver, 55, chimp called “The Humanzee”
Oliver, 55, a chimpanzee who was promoted in his youth as “The Humanzee,” was found dead on June 2, 2012 in his sleeping hammock at the Primarily Primates sanctuary near San Antonio, Texas, operated by Friends of Animals. Oliver’s companion Raisin was at his side.
Oliver differed from most chimps in usually walking on his hind legs, having shorter hair on the top of his head, having a lighter build, having finer facial features, and having an easy-going nature, but genetic testing showed that he was a chimp, not a member of an otherwise unknown species, former Primarily Primates president Wally Swett told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
“Oliver arrived at Primarily Primates 15 years ago,” recalled FoA president Priscilla Feral. “His years at the sanctuary were the only ones where he wasn’t commercially exploited. We refused offers to film him. Making money off him had to end.”
“I worked for two companies that owned Oliver between 1977 and 1984,” wrote ANIMAL PEOPLE reader Ralph Porec, of Midpines, California, in a December 1995 letter to the editor. “I first met Oliver at the Enchanted Village theme park in Buena Park, California. He belonged to Ralph Helfer, a partner in the park. Oliver was on display in a climate-controlled building, billed as a freak of nature. It was rumored that Oliver had come from a circus sideshow, and as a youngster, his teeth were pulled. Enchanted Village closed in 1977. Under the name Gentle Jungle Inc., Helfer relocated his animals to the Costa Mesa Fairgrounds until spring 1978, when he set up in Colton, at the old Gene Holter Movieland Animal Park,” Porec continued. “I worked with Gentle Jungle until 1980. In 1982, by which time I was with the Wild Animal Training Center in Riverside, Gentle Jungle moved again, to Lion Country Safari,. Gentle Jungle was then closed by a USDA investigation and an eventual lawsuit against Helfer for Animal Welfare Act violations. Oliver and a few other animals were transferred to Ken Decroo, owner of the Wild Animal Training Center. There Oliver was kept in a large cage and was regularly handled.
“I left WATC in 1984,” Porec said. “In 1985, when I was working for the San Diego Wild Animal Park, I heard that Decroo had sold Oliver to a wealthy man back east, and that is the last I heard of him,” until ANIMAL PEOPLE reported in October 1995 that Primarily Primates was trying to obtain Oliver from the Buckshire Corporation, a supplier of animals to laboratories that was leaving the business. “During my time working with and around Oliver, or Ollie as we called him, I never saw him abused or even handled roughly,” Porec testified. “Oliver was always very gentle and intelligent, although he did have a habit of catching and killing any stray ducks or chickens who got within his reach. He wasn’t castrated, but even when housed with a female chimp he never bred,” Porec added. “Ollie has trouble seeing,” Porec finished, “and because of his bad eyesight, does become frightened, especially at night.”
“I think he’s just a very nice old chimp,” said Buckshire Corporation president Sharon Hirsch, who sent Oliver to Primarily Primates after the ANIMAL PEOPLE article appeared. “He sleeps a lot, lying back with his feet up. I had a cup of coffee in my hand when Oliver first arrived here. He begged for the coffee, I gave it to him, he drank it, and we were great friends ever since.”
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