Heartwarming Moment!Vanilla the chimp, caged for entire life, sees sky for first time


How sweet is the open sky?

A touching video caught the first time that Vanilla the chimpanzee — a 29-year-old survivor of New York's infamous Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP) — saw the open sky after arriving at the Save the Chimps sanctuary in Fort Pierce, Florida.

Vanilla had never been outside of a 5-foot-square cage or a garage-sized enclosure until she moved in — and by the looks of it, she is spellbound by her new ape abode.

Vanilla lived in the notorious laboratory — which closed in 1997 — until she was 2.

She was then among a group transferred to California, where she was confined to a larger enclosure at a refuge that went out of business in 2019 and was threatened by wildfires.


Last year, the chimpanzee sanctuary arranged for FedEx to fly her and her group to the 150-acre Sunshine State location.

In the heartwarming video — which was shared at Friday's American Society of Primatologists symposium in Reno by Save the Chimps' primatologist Dr. Andrew Halloran — she was greeted with a huge hug by alpha male Dwight as she left her enclosure, gazed skyward and then explored her new island.

"In California, Vanilla lived with a handful of chimps inside a chain-link fence cage with no grass and very little enrichment," Halloran told The Post.


Her new island refuge is home to 226 chimpanzees discarded from laboratories, the entertainment industry, the exotic pet trade and roadside zoos, according to the organization, and many have previously endured solitary confinement and never interacted with other chimps before.

"Vanilla is settling in very well," he 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."

Halloran assesses the personalities of each new chimp that arrives at the sanctuary to figure out which of its 12 chimp island communities is the best match.

And Vanilla apparently has found just the right one.

"She gets along with all of the other 18 chimps on her island," Halloran said, "and has a particularly playful relationship with the alpha male Dwight — from whom she steals food."



news flash