It is with the heaviest of hearts that we must announce the passing of our eldest and most beloved chimpanzee, Kitty. In a very short amount of time, Kitty went from taking care of her best friend Lulu and being the strong matriarch of our chimpanzee family, to passing quietly surrounded by her Black Beauty Ranch family. Wild born, Kitty was captured at approximately ten years of age. She was put into a breeding program and over the course of her life gave birth to 14 infants, including two sets of twins. All but four of Kitty’s babies were immediately taken from her. Kitty was retired from the breeding program in May, 1997 and arrived at Black Beauty Ranch on June 3, 1997. She lived her life at the sanctuary as the matriarch and leader of her group that included Lulu, her best friend, and Midge, the youngest of the trio.
Kitty was brilliant. She was always the first to explore new enrichment and try to find the best ways to figure out or disassemble whatever the enrichment contraption may have been. She built elaborate nests made of blankets, boxes, hay and stuff toys, leaving Midge with a few nesting materials to rest his head. Her care team always chuckled at Kitty’s bedtime set-ups which also usually included a stash of snacks. When her friend Lulu suffered a stroke, Kitty immediately stepped in and began to care for her by bringing snacks and magazines to her side. This came as no surprise. Kitty’s files from her time in the breeding program were full of comments noting excellent maternal care. She was even put into a foster-mother program where she helped inexperienced chimps rear their babies.
Over the last few days as Kitty declined, Lulu was able to return the favor to her friend. Until the end, Lulu gave Kitty her constant companionship. While our hearts are broken that Kitty has left us, there is comfort in knowing that she is free. She is free, as she was the first ten years of life. Free as she was meant to be. We can never express fully how grateful we are to have known Kitty and how proud we are to have told her story, not just for Kitty, but for all of the other chimpanzees being used in research, some of whom are her children and grandchildren. The last line of the book Black Beauty reads “I have nothing to fear and here my story ends. My troubles are all over and I am at home.” Kitty, your story will forever be told. You will forever be an ambassador to other chimpanzees who have suffered. Rest quietly our sweet Kitty.
Kitty is survived by numerous children and grandchildren, her best friends Lulu and Midge and her Black Beauty Ranch family.