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Hazel is the largest—and as best we can tell the oldest—of the PRC chimpanzees. She was most likely caught in the wild, as this was how captive chimpanzees were typically acquired in the 1960s and early ’70s. Her earliest years are a mystery, although a former owner says that Hazel had originally been acquired for a circus, where she was housed in a small box atop the cage of a tiger. But lazy by nature (trainers called her “Lump Lump,” because she just lay around like a big lump), she would not perform and, as a result, was sold to a private individual.
Hazel’s new owner moved her to Ohio, and then to Dahlonega, Georgia. Raised like a human child for a time, she was generally docile and easy to please as long as she was well fed. But once Hazel and her four companions—Debbie (now deceased), Donald, Vicky, and Zulu—were moved from the owner’s house to a concrete bunker in the backyard, Hazel used her large stature to commandeer a disproportionate amount of the food. As a result, she became obese, while cagemates Vicky and Debbie nearly starved. And because her diet contained large quantities of foods with little nutritional value, Hazel eventually developed diabetes—a condition only diagnosed when she started receiving medical care at the PRC.
For all her laziness and gluttony, Miss Hazel played a major role in facilitating the introduction of the senior chimpanzees to seven young research chimps upon their arrival here. The old, round, gray gal immediately cuddled and doted on the youngsters, especially tiny Cory. Once the other adults from Dahlonega witnessed Hazel’s warmth, they were no longer as frightened of these unruly juveniles and the introductions occurred without incident. The two groups have lived together in one troop ever since.
Hazel is still obese and is treated daily for her diabetes. Her love of healthy fruits and vegetables helps maintain her health, as does the larger outdoor enclosure that allows her more room to roam and exercise. Her medical bills are still substantial, however, and we’re always grateful for any financial assistance earmarked for our dear Hazel.
|Size||4 to 5.5 feet, 70 to 130 pounds|
|Average Lifespan||35-40 years in the wild
50-60 years in captivity
|Notable Features||Long, powerful arms for climbing in trees; on the ground, they walk upright or on all fours, using their knuckles for support|
|Diet||Omnivore, but partial to fruit|
Chimpanzees are humans' closest living relatives, sharing an estimated 94 percent of our DNA. In the wild, these empathetic and intelligent mammals live in large social groups called communities. Because of habitat loss, hunting, and poaching of babies for the pet trade, chimps are classified as endangered.