Written by Shannon Wallin

Most people know CHCI for its dedication to five amazing chimpanzees. Of course providing sanctuary to Washoe, Loulis, Tatu, Dar, and Moja has always been CHCI’s primary purpose. But as well as a remarkable sanctuary, CHCI wore many other hats that made this sanctuary unique.

CHCI educated 1000’s upon 1000’s of people about chimpanzees and their plight through Chimposiums and Advanced Chimposiums. Most people left these workshops with a greater respect for the species and with a drive to join the fight to protect both free living and captive chimpanzees.
CHCI was also an educational facility for students. Student interns volunteered their time to help take care of the chimpanzees; in return they learned valuable caregiving skills. Not only did they learn the ins and outs of caregiving, most importantly they learned what it meant to do it ethically, to do it with compassion. Caregiving at CHCI required you to be humble and put the chimpanzees and their needs first. Not many college graduates leave college with such rich hands on experience in this field. Many of our interns left highly employable in the caregiving field. CHCI’s summer apprentice program allowed students from other universities to come and experience the same educations, these students also left with a greater passion for chimpanzees and with valuable caregiving experience.


CHCI also contributed to behavioral research. Non-invasive, behavioral research was done to help better understand this family and to enhance the well being of all captive chimpanzees.

CHCI’s mission was to take care of Washoe, Tatu, Moja, Loulis, and Dar. The chimpanzees were the heart and soul of CHCI, but along the way CHCI inspired and trained future caregivers and activists. CHCI inspired many to care and take action; I am lucky to have been a part of this.

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A Life Changed and Lessons Learned

By Shannon Wallin

The last 12 years have changed my life. I have always been an animal lover, but I never truly understood what it meant until I met Washoe, Tatu, Moja, Loulis, and Dar. I came to CHCI as a grad student, my exposure and understanding of biomedical research was limited. I thought, like most people do, it was a necessary evil, the means justified the ends. I didn’t like it, but what else could we do? Then I met these guys. One day it hit, I finally understood. I was watching someone put together a video presentation on biomedical research and there was a chimp being tied to a table screaming, then it cut to baby Washoe playing in the Gardner’s yard. It all clicked, Washoe, Tatu, Moja, Loulis, and Dar were all in the system, they were all supposed to be test subjects! These were my friends, I could not even imagine them as the chimp in that video. But they could have been, it could have been the chimpanzee next door to Tatu that came to the Garnder’s or the one next to Dar and so on. Those chimps in those cages at the biomedical facilities, they are individuals, they are all incredible beings just like the chimpanzees at CHCI. No matter the need to use them in biomedical research, we don’t have the right. They suffer, they suffer greatly. To subject a being to suffer such a horrible fate for our gain was wrong, I finally understood. From there it wasn’t hard to extrapolate to other situations. What about the elephant in the circus? The dolphin at the sea park? Or the chimpanzee in those commercials? They all deserve our attention.
CHCI and the chimpanzees have changed my life; after 12 years caring for these guys, I am moving on as a stronger advocate for animals. I can thank Washoe and her family for that and I am not the only one, they have changed many lives.

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Olive meets Tatu and Loulis

Written by Sandra Casti

Olive is one brave cat. When we lived in NYC, she rode the subways, trains, and buses with me from time to time and never meowed. She even seemed to enjoy the cross country drive we took on our way to Ellensburg earlier this summer! She is one travelin’ kitty. Since Olive is always up for adventure, I wanted to introduce her to Loulis and Tatu for some interspecies enrichment. I brought her in last week for a short visit.

Tatu and Loulis immediately came over to the observation window to greet and inspect their guest…


Loulis has such a sweet and gentle face…

DSCF0056Getting a closer look…

DSCF0044It was such a treat to see Tatu and Loulis’ faces so interested and full of excitement!

Posted in Apprentices, CHCI Experiences, Enrichment, Interns, Loulis, Tatu, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

NYC Day at CHCI!

Written by Sandra Casti

August 13th was NYC Day at CHCI! We wanted to bring the “Big Apple” to Tatu and Loulis, so the enrichment items were chosen to give the East Room a genuine New York vibe. Here’s two shots of the East Room before Tatu and Loulis entered: complete with a sTATUe of Liberty, the Flatiron Building, The New Yorker Hotel, subway signs, and the Empire State Building! (Notice our stuffed gorilla friend “climbing” the Empire State Building!)


It almost looks like Tatu is in a subway car!


And they’re in! Tatu heads right towards the sTATUe of Liberty!


And next to a brownstone building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn…


NYC is the perfect place for a game of chase!

DSCF0089Loulis pauses for a moment to take it all in.


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Confessions of a Docent

Experiences from the other side of the glass
by Cindy Marks

One late summer weekend in 2002 I was traveling with my long time friend from college. As usual she had several library books and with a twinkle in her eye she handed me one.  My fascination with the great apes started early, as an only child  I wanted a chimp sibling. My wise mother never relented on that one! In the early 70s a very popular college elective was Physical Anthropology, a combination of primate behavior and human evolution. For me it was transformative. Before In The Shadow of Man was published we were privy to Jane Goodall’s work and were fortunate to watch some films of her early adventures.  Chimps have been a part of my being ever since. I still have an article from the Seattle Times describing the young chimpanzees who had just moved to Ellensburg in the early 80s. It is safely tucked into my signed copy of Next of Kin.

Cindy and Lou play the feet game

Cindy and Lou play the feet game

So it was that Next of Kin from the library that kept me up all night. I was mesmerized. I had tangentially known about Washoe for years – but here was a personal account of decades with her. I knew about Chimposiums but never made it to one. When I read about community docents I wondered how far one could stretch “community”, more than 100 miles?

Upon returning home I immediately found the CHCI and FOW websites and was stunned learn that Moja had just died. I realized waiting was not an option, I needed to get to CHCI soon. I cajoled and convinced that same friend to spend a day the next spring at both a regular and advanced chimposium. By the end of that moving day I knew my life would never be the same. If I wanted to drive 250 miles round trip on summer Sundays I too could be a docent. I spent the rest of that summer training. I managed to wrestle successfully with the gift shop cash register, get comfortable with the classroom presentation and observe and become familiar with the chimps so I could eventually sit as an observer guide.

By the end of the summer I presented and finally sat in front of the group during an observation. Loulis sat quite close on the floor in the East Playroom and caught my eye. He held my gaze (it seemed like forever) and drew me closer.  Instead of a playful punch his lips pressed the glass and I received a kiss. I was accepted! I tearfully turned to the guests totally tongue tied!

One summer a docent had some friends visit with an infant. We were in the outside area. Dar was in his usual east playroom cargo net.  Upon seeing the baby he gracefully and hastily swung down and bolted quickly outside.  He came to a screeching halt at the window and made himself appear small – a feat for Dar! His eyes turned into pools of chocolate sauce and his face glowed softly with what seemed like gentle awe. He brought his large hands to the glass and with deliberate tiny movements signed “chase” so delicately it was meant for the baby who he obviously adored.  He then moved slowly and carefully along the window turning to make sure his “pursuer” was bouncing along after him!

I had the opportunity to spend 10 years slowly and steadily accumulating experiences and interactions with our special friends.  Each spring, especially with rising gas prices, as I make my first pilgrimage east I wonder, yet another year? Like clockwork, that first day Loulis did something silly or special and our friendship resumed as if no time has passed and every year I say “I’m snookered yet again for another year!!”

A meeting of the minds

A meeting of the minds

Being a docent has been a joy, an honor, a privilege and sometimes a trial – I have written all this while sitting in interminable traffic crawling west on I-90! I am so glad I persisted.  This has been a transcendent experience, fulfilling childhood dreams and adult passions! I am eternally grateful for the opportunity.

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Chimpanzee Chess!

Written by Sandra Casti


I learned how to play chess earlier this year, and have grown to really appreciate the strategic complexities of the game. As I created chess pieces out of cardboard in preparation for today’s advanced enrichment day, I began to imagine how a game would unfold between Tatu and Loulis…

Here is Loulis, contemplating his next move.


Tatu approaches the board without hesitation. She is a chimpanzee chess master!


Grad student Susie discusses chess strategy while Loulis takes a break from the game to enjoy a frozen peach ice cube!


Hmmm…maybe looking at the board from another angle will help Loulis…


Tatu enjoys some grapes while she waits for Loulis to make his next move. Chess is quite a brain workout!


Who do you think will win??

Posted in CHCI Experiences, Enrichment, Interns, Loulis, Tatu, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Taking Care of Business (Or, Tatu is a good friend!)

When I went to greet the chimpanzees this morning they were both outside. Loulis was lying down on the cement steps but after a moment he bronx cheered to get my attention and initiated a rowdy game of chase. Then I grabbed the huge stuffed gorilla we have and pretended that it was chasing Loulis. He seems to like playing that game with me and we enjoyed it for quite awhile.


P1010042At one point, from the West playroom, Loulis saw (over my shoulder) Tatu running in from outside. As soon as he saw her running in toward the West playroom he backed away quickly from me and the giant gorilla and started making noises as if he were scared of us. Tatu came running in, touched his shoulder as she ran by, and banged and poked at the gorilla while threat barking. After she had done this, she reached out a hand to Loulis to give him reassurance. Good thing Tatu was there to take care of business!

Copy of P1000876

Posted in CHCI Experiences, Enrichment, Interns, Loulis, Play, Sanctuary, Tatu | 2 Comments

New Enrichment!

By Shannon Wallin

The chimpanzee’s have an iPad!  Audrey Schwartz Rivers, long time supporter and friend of the chimpanzees, bought and sent them their very own iPad.   She also sent an iTunes gift card and bought a chimp proof case!  The chimpanzees are lucky to have such a generous friend!

Tatu and Loulis have been enjoying the iPad.  We downloaded a bunch of apps including ones that feature art, music , ASL and food.  Their favorite thing to do, however, is to look at pictures or watch videos.  With the iPad we can take videos and pictures of friends doing fun activities and show it to them.  It will also be great tool for helping to prepare Tatu and Loulis for the move as we can show them video of Fauna Foundation and the chimpanzees there.

Thank you so much Audrey for your generous donation and your years of support!


Brea shows Tatu the ipad.


Tatu tests it out.


Loulis gives it a try.







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Anna is an old friend of Tatu and Loulis’s. After she graduated from CWU she interned at the Portland Zoo and now is working at a beautiful chimpanzee sanctuary in Canada called the Fauna Foundation. Whenever she visits Ellensburg she stops by to see Tatu and Loulis.

Loulis gives Anna a kiss.

Loulis gives Anna a kiss.

Loulis ticking Anna's feet.

Loulis ticking Anna’s feet.


Tatu and Anna

Tatu and Anna

Tatu running across the room to play with Anna.

Tatu running across the room to play with Anna.


When Anna needed to leave she waved goodbye to Tatu. Tatu signed FRIEND.

When Anna needed to leave she waved goodbye to Tatu. Tatu signed FRIEND.

Posted in CHCI Experiences, Education, Interns, Loulis, Play, Sanctuary, Sign Language, Tatu, What do you do with your degree? | Leave a comment

The Dark Knight is Nuts!

Written by Kate Bridal

Tomorrow (Tuesday) is a special enhanced enrichment day for the chimpanzees: Superhero Day!  I love superheroes (I’m not necessarily proud of this, but I saw The Avengers nine times in the theater) and I was sad I wouldn’t be here for Superhero Day.  I figured the best course of action was to dress up like Batgirl and run around with the chimpanzees for a little while.  It was rainy today, so I thought we could all use a little unusual entertainment.

I donned a cape, mask, and the black bodysuit, then posed with the amazing Batman Erika Price had constructed in the student room.  Then I went in to see the chimpanzees.  Tatu signed BLACK GIMME first.  When I told her I couldn’t give her any part of my costume, she signed NUT several times.  I told her I’d ask if she could have some when I was done playing with Loulis.  Loulis tickled my boot a lot and got a huge play face as we played some chase.  I then went to the kitchen to fulfill my heroic task (before I left the room, Tatu was sure to remind me what I was doing by signing NUT some more) and brought some nuts to Tatu and Loulis.  Tatu seemed satisfied.  All in a day’s work!  Now I must return to being mild-mannered Kate Bridal until the chimpanzees are in need of a hero again.


Batgirl and Batman


Loulis checking out Batgirl




Tatu requests nuts.


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