Chimp That Spent Its Entire Life In Captivity Filmed Seeing Sky For The First Time

A chimp that spent its entire life in a cage was captured on video stepping out into the open air and seeing the sky for the first time. The heartwarming footage shows the sweet animal in awe of what she’s taking in and it’s enough to make many viewers cry.

Vanilla the chimp was raised at New York’s Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP) until it closed in 1997. She then moved to a refuge in California until 2019, but the refuge later went out of business. Thankfully, a deal was struck to bring Vanilla and her chimp friends to a new home in Florida.

“In California, Vanilla lived with a handful of chimps inside a chain-link fence cage with no grass and very little enrichment,” said Save the Chimps primatologist Dr. Andrew Halloran. He shared the clip of Vanilla at the American Society of Primatologists symposium in Reno, Nevada on Friday.

The clip shows Vanilla clearly feeling apprehensive about stepping outside, which is understandable given that she was experiencing something new. However, with a bit of encouragement, she decides to step outside and her reaction is everything.

Now, she and 225 other chimps previously living in labs, owned as exotic pets, and used in the entertainment industry will live a whole new life of freedom and joy. They also get to make friends with their fellow chimps, something many never got to experience while in captivity.

“Vanilla is settling in very well. When she’s not exploring the island with her friends, she can usually be found perched atop a three-story climbing platform surveying her new world,” Halloran said.

She’s already bonded with an alpha male called Dwight, who hugs her in the video. Halloran added: “She gets along with all of the other 18 chimps on her island and has a particularly playful relationship with the alpha male Dwight — from whom she steals food.”

Here’s hoping Vanilla is living her life to the fullest!

Jennifer Still is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. The managing editor of Bolde, she has bylines in Vanity Fair, Business Insider, The New York Times, Glamour, Bon Appetit, and many more. You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill