Martina was born on January 21, 1991, at the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP), a biomedical research laboratory in New York. Like many chimpanzees bred for research, she was separated at birth from her mother and raised in a nursery-like setting. Sweet-natured Martina bonded closely with her human caretakers, and was still being taken to caregivers’ homes well after other juveniles had outgrown this sort of arrangement.
When LEMSIP closed its operations in 1996, Martina was one of the few fortunate individuals who found sanctuary (most were sent to another biomedical research facility). She came to the PRC with six other LEMSIP chimps, all a few years younger, and was housed with them as something of a “big sister.” Although sweet to humans, Martina was somewhat of a bully to her younger peers. She would take food and their favored toys, and make the biggest nest out of her companions’ blankets and coveted straw.
Once the LEMSIP gang was integrated with the older Dahlonega Five chimps, Martina found her high position a bit uncertain. Donald, the dominant adult male in his group, was quite interested in this adolescent newcomer, but his older female companions were less enthusiastic about making her acquaintance. Victoria was especially jealous that Martina was receiving all of Donald’s attention (he even let Martina make off with some of his food). Victoria would never take out her frustrations in front of Donald, but when he moved to a different room she would swoop in and poke, slap, and otherwise heckle Martina. It took years for the relationship between these two to cool down, and they still have an occasional struggle over Donald’s affections.
Martina is still good-natured and eager to please her human caretakers. Asked to fetch a broken toy from inside the enclosure, for example, she races off and returns with the requested item. And like Jenny and Noelle, she loves shoes. A visitor with a pair of new white tennis shoes is a real treat for our Martina.