Stories of Chimpanzees

Stories of Chimpanzees

Sue Ellen
Sue Ellen
Ch. 440*: Human betrayal


Born in 1968, Sue Ellen performed in a circus before being sent to the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP). Eventually, she was retired to Fauna Foundation where she spends most of her days playing, resting, eating, and enjoying the company of her chimpanzee companions.

Fauna staff has described Sue Ellen as a princess. Sue Ellen loves attention and is known to try to turn a photographer’s camera her way.

Sue Ellen is possessive of her “things” and does not enjoy being teased by Tom when he tries to take her blankets away. Her blankets and sheets can be a source of aggravation for this “princess.” She fights with her sheets to get them in just the right position, and she frequently tears at them and screams occasionally when they do not cooperate.

Sue Ellen has been known to carry a pair of plastic binoculars around her neck, and to use them to peer at humans arriving at the chimpanzee house through her favorite window.

Sue Ellen and her chimpanzee companion, Billy Jo, were said to have been walked into the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP) holding hands with their trainer. He was just one in a long line of humans who betrayed her.

Sue Ellen spent her first 15 years with Billy Jo entertaining people at the circus. They were raised and treated as human children, except that they were not “human,” so things were done to them that no one would ever do to a human child. Like knocking her teeth out with a blunt instrument, or abandoning her as a teenager to a laboratory for “experimental medicine.”

During her first year in the lab, Sue Ellen endured 29 liver biopsies. She was expected to reproduce babies who would be taken from her and doomed to a life as “subjects” for research. Sue Ellen underwent an additional 11 liver biopsies, three rectal biopsies, and four lymph node biopsies. She was also infected with HIV and primarily used in HIV studies.

Today, Sue Ellen resides at Fauna Foundation, where despite her years of healing and safety, she is at times still understandably suspicious and mistrustful of humans. As a result of Fauna’s care, she is less suspect, more relaxed, and perhaps finally realizing that life is now safe.


Sue Ellen’s story is based on information supplied by Fauna Foundation.

Diana Goodrich, “Sue Ellen—first impressions”, Fauna Foundation Newsletter (Sept. 2001)

Diana Goodrich, “Sue Ellen—extension anecdotes”, Fauna Foundation Newsletter (Fall 2002)

NEAVS From Stage to Lab Cage brochure (2002)

* Chimpanzees in laboratories are assigned a unique number beginning with “Ch.” Where it is known, NEAVS supplies this number in these stories.

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