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    Posted April 21, 2012 by
    Wauchula, Florida
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Impact Your World

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    Center for Great Apes (part 2)


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     JamesAmerson says he was invited to the Center of Great Apes. He says standing close to the ape’s enclosed habitat it felt almost life changing. 'It is totally different from a zoo. A zoo is there to educate people about animals, and this sanctuary was created to rehabilitate and give back to creatures that had unfortunate beginnings.' He says many of the apes in the center were captured in the wild and sold as pets while some were breed for Hollywood entertainment or the circus. Since these apes are too familiar with humans and lack survival skills they cannot be released in to the wild, he says. 'Primates are very social and territorial, these apes might be killed by their own species for being an outsider,' he says. 'This is for the sake of these creatures, and for them to live their lives as close to apes as possible,' he says.
    - Jareen, CNN iReport producer

    Our visit to the Center for Great Apes (part 2)


    Patti Ragan began her new journey in life over 20 years ago when she planned to retire, but came across an infant chimpanzee named Grub and another infant orangutan, Pongo. These encounters redirected her journey, as well as many others, in a direction they could have never imagined. Patti’s path crossed with my friend Lucie Easley over a couple of other apes, Knuckles, a chimpanzee with cerebral palsy and special needs and Mari, an orangutan whose mother bit off her arms when she was an infant in a laboratory. These two wonderful, intelligent and kind hearted women have teamed up with a small army of others kindred spirits to create an ape’s heaven on earth with state-of-the-art living quarters, a mile of overhead enclosed paths from area to area so the apes can travel through the jungle by their onsite veterinary clinic and a modern kitchen with a staff to prepare healthy meals each and every day. As of today, they take care of 45 apes and deal with request to accept new chimpanzees and orangutans who need a permanent home.


    The newest member of the Center for Great Apes has stolen my heart. This chimpanzee’s name is Clyde and his journey began when he was born in Africa in the late 60’s. (Want to know a little known fact? In order to obtain an infant chimpanzee in the wild, a poacher would have to first shoot and kill its mother while the baby is still clinging to her chest. Only after they are sure of the mother’s death, then they would capture the infant, crate it and ship it off to the states.) He then spent the majority of his life, over 40 years, in a small cage and in a garage where he couldn’t walk or even see the sky. He weighed less than 100 pounds. Luckily the Center was able to take him in and with the help of Patti and her army of ape angels, I am happy to report that Clyde is up and about and now living a life he could never had imagined either. Clyde has gained over 30 pounds and is discovering what trees and birds are, what other apes look like and how it feels to have a warm breeze and an occasional tropical rain fall across his face.


    We can never express the gratitude that Jeff and I have for the Center for Great Apes, also to Patti and Lucie for letting us glimpse into a world that most people have no idea exist but more should be aware of.
    I do need to mention that the sanctuary isn’t open to the public, for the safety of the ones that live there, but it is open to people who become members. Members can tour the Center by appointment or during the special open houses in the Fall and Spring.
    Please go to www.centerforgreatapes.org to learn more about the sanctuary and what you can do to help.

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