In quite possibly the most wholesome and heartwarming story of the week, Vanilla the chimp has seen the sky for the first time in 29 years.
Vanilla is a 29-year-old female chimpanzee who lived until she was two years old at New York biomedical research facility the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP).
The facility kept the animals in cages with no access to the outside world. Fortunately for Vanilla she was taken from the facility in 1995 and moved to Wildlife Waystation in California, which kept her in a roofed enclosure. Then Wildlife Waystation went out of business in 2019, and Vanilla along with the rest of the group was flown to a new location.
“In California, Vanilla lived with a handful of chimps inside a chain-link fence cage with no grass and very little enrichment,” Save the Chimps’ primatologist Dr Andrew Halloran told the New York Post.
Vanilla along with Shake, Magic, Jeff, and Ernesta, arrived at the Save The Chimps sanctuary in Fort Pierce, Florida last year, according to a statement, and are being integrated into a larger group. For Vanilla this was the first opportunity for her to go outside, and while hesitant at first, she was encouraged by a huge hug from alpha male chimp, Dwight.
In the video, Vanilla can be seen gazing in wonder at the sky above her. Since the release the team report that Vanilla and Shake have been enjoying the sunshine and relaxing under the blue sky.
“Vanilla is settling in very well,” Halloran continued. “When she’s not exploring the island with her friends, she can usually be found perched atop a three-story climbing platform surveying her new world.”