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  • Writer's picturejohn kepler

Chimpanzee caged for 28 years seeing open sky for first time

Vanilla started her life in a now-closed biomedical research laboratory



A 28-year-old chimpanzee saw an open sky for the first time in her life and her reaction, which was caught on camera, has since gone viral.

The chimpanzee’s name is Vanilla and she was recently rehomed at Save the Chimps, a privately funded sanctuary in Fort Pierce on Florida’s east coast.

Sanctuary employees shared a video of Vanilla adjusting to her new digs, including the moment she was left “in awe of the sight of the vast open sky for the first time.”

You can watch the video of Vanilla in the media player at the top of this article.


According to her bio on Save the Chimps, Vanilla spent her early years in a now-closed biomedical research laboratory in New York where chimpanzees were commonly housed in 5′x5′x7′ cages suspended from the ground like bird cages.

She was then taken to California’s Wildlife Waystation in 1995 with a group of around 30 chimpanzees.

In 2019, the Wildlife Waystation closed, causing nearly 480 animals to need to be re-homed, including 42 chimpanzees, according to Save the Chimps.

Vanilla was one of the final seven chimpanzees to be re-homed.

She was transported cross-country from California to Florida in a FedEx airplane, thanks to the FedEx Cares program. She was then driven from Orlando to the sanctuary in a climate-controlled semi-truck by volunteers from Pero Family Farms.

During her life and her move from coast to coast, Vanilla had only seen the sky through the top of a cage.


She is now fully integrated into a new family group of chimpanzees that have a 3-acre island to explore and the freedom to choose where and how to spend their days.

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