Rodney was born on November 25, 1994, at the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP), a biomedical research laboratory in New York that has since been closed. Separated at birth from his mother, he was raised with other infant chimpanzees by human caretakers. Although such maternal deprivation is extremely difficult for a young primate, the big-eared, goofy-faced Rodney has always been a prankster and clown who’s good-natured with both humans and chimpanzees.
Growing up, Rodney had trouble discerning when his companions were not in the mood to play (he was always in the mood). He taunted and hassled them, throwing things their way or slapping the ground until they’d chase him (his antics were more annoying and obnoxious than aggressive or violent). Never mind if they were angry—it was all a game to him. During his early days at the PRC, Rodney was well taken care of by Zulu, who treated him as her own child: she played with him, defended him in spats, and even brought him into her nest at night.
Rodney and Ike have always been close friends, and often support each other when fights break out. But as the least dominant of the males, Rodney is often roughed up in disputes with the others, sometimes leaving him with painful cuts and gouges. All in all, though, he seems to be a happy chimp, and lets out memorable grunts of glee when new toys or treats are handed out.