It is with the heaviest of hearts that we share news of the passing of chimpanzee Hazel due to complications of diabetes at an estimated age of 47 years old. Beautiful Hazel left us Wednesday morning in her sleep, leaving behind her legacy of relishing life's comforts after surviving a dark and terrible past.
Hazel was most likely caught in the wild in the late 1960's or early 1970's, and so we don't know her birth date. We were told she was initially acquired for use in the circus, but she has always been a stubborn one and didn't perform as her trainers desired. They nicknamed her “Lump Lump” and sold her to a private owner. Eventually that owner moved Hazel (along with fellow PRC chimps Donald, Victoria, Zulu and Debbie, who is now deceased) to Georgia, where the group were housed in a filthy concrete bunker for close to twenty years. The chimpanzees were forced to survive without any ventilation, very little fresh water and improper nutrition until their rescue two decades later.
When Hazel arrived at the PRC in 1998 she was obese and we diagnosed her with diabetes. We immediately set to work getting her diabetes under control, and made great strides by introducing her to a healthy diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables and getting her to move around in our large outdoor enclosure. Hazel always struggled with her weight and mobility, but she always loved spring and fall where she could lay outside in the sunshine.
Hazel was so nurturing towards all the chimps, but especially our young and rowdy boys. She commanded respect and her reassuring presence was key to facilitating the introduction of the seven other chimpanzees that would eventually join us at the sanctuary. Hazel's warmth and confidence was endearing to many. She could often be found napping in a hammock or resting in the outdoor tunnel, where the other chimps knew not to disturb her. If Hazel was in someone's way, that chimp would find a way around her because Hazel was not getting up for anybody!
Although it is difficult to imagine the PRC without Hazel, we are comforted by the fact that the last decades of Hazel's life were full of fresh air, sunshine and the fresh food that she loved so much. Please feel free to comment with your memories and thoughts on the life of Hazel.
Hazel, we love you and miss you already.