WLW:  First Do No Harm, the Ponso Research Chimp Story, March 30, 2016 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #893a)

One of the mythic key elements in the medical profession is its attention to the holistic care of patients, the overriding concern is distilled into the phrase, “First Do No Harm”—though this wording is not precisely found in the Hippocratic Oath.

But in the quest for scientific discoveries and innovation, animal testing has often come under fire for its damaging physical and psychological treatment of animals in their studies, per the International Humane Society.  Some of these include but are not limited to (there were more listed if you follow the link, but these two give you an idea of what research testing animals have to endure):

       * Forced chemical exposure in toxicity testing, which can include oral force-feeding,
forced inhalation, skin or injection into the abdomen, muscle, etc.

       *Exposure to drugs, chemicals or infectious disease at levels that cause illness, pain
and distress, or death”

With my transitioning to a vegetarian lifestyle in the last month for personal health and animal humane reasons, I have become more resolved in trying to lessen my environmental impact.  And the heartbreaking recent tragedies involving  human violence does not inure me to the ongoing need for the humane treatment of animals as well.

My compassion is omni directional with regard to living species. Perhaps even more so, because our beloved now almost four year old beagle doggie was an abandoned one month old puppy who was fortuitously found by a kind stranger and taken to our local Humane Society–where we later adopted her when she turned four months old.  She is such a joy to our lives, that I shudder at the thought of her being hurt or killed if she had not been found when she was a puppy. Her birthday is next month.

And then this came across my newsfeed Tuesday via Laura D (Thanks for sharing!)—three individuals with a ready made platform due to their celebrity status taking a stand about Ponso (EPIX produced “Berlin Station” costars, left to right: Michelle Forbes, Richard Armitage, and Rhys Ifans):

Unfortunately, the 140 character limit of Twitter communication doesn’t allow for much explanation, especially with hashtag topic phraseology.  So I was stumped, but my curiosity was piqued and I did a bit of Google searching to find out more.

So who  or what is Ponso?  He’s a chimp—an elderly abandoned chimp, the last of his community of 66 former research apes released to the wild.  But with no food or water sources, most of the chimps soon died off—until now there is only one of the former research testing chimp left, Ponso.

“Ponso, Chimp Abandoned by NY Blood Center”, video shared by Danny Moss


So I have redubbed today WLW—Wild Life Wednesday.  And in searching for more information about Ponso’s situation, I found that the Huffington Post shared an essay by Wayne Pacelle, President of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) published May 29, 2015.  In part, Mr. Pacelle stated:

“The [New York] Blood Center previously committed itself to the lifetime care of these chimpanzees, its officials publicly announcing their ethical responsibility to do so and indicating the start of an endowment for this purpose a decade ago. Officials there are now repudiating this commitment, stating heartlessly that the organization “never had any obligation for care for the chimps, contractual or otherwise.”

Though a little further down in my essay here, you will see that I found a source with a slightly different perspective proposing a mitigating circumstance regarding the New York Blood Center (NYBC).


In that  May 29, 2015 New York Times article by James Gorman mentioned above by HSUS President Wayne Pacelle, it represents some second hand responses from the NYBC regarding the abandoned chimps and their lack of care—though the article states that NYBC declined to comment directly for the article.  However, the article does put the chimps’ plight into a harrowing perspective:

“The New York Blood Center has abandoned a colony of 66 chimps in Liberia that its research teams used in experiments for three decades, reports James Gorman of the New York Times in a story today.”

“Brian Hare, an anthropologist and primatologist at Duke University who is also known for his studies of dog intelligence, started a petition on Change.org to urge people to contact the New York Blood Center. It is a story of past exploitation and present-day heartlessness by a well-funded charity with ample resources to handle a responsibility it created and cannot now abandon.”


So who is Brian Hare, the animal research scientist mentioned in the New York Times article?  A 2012 Duke University online article about Dr. Brian Hare’s animal research highlights the contrasting nature of his method of scientific inquiry, involving less invasive in situ observation and his work in wildlife sanctuaries:

“Hare’s comparative research with animals also involves him in species conservation. He is part of a growing number of researchers who study animals in the natural environment or as visitors to a home-like conservation center. Read more about his Hominoid Psychology Research Group.

“The old model of primate research was that we worked with animals in cages. I work with 300 great apes, 300 lemurs and 1,000 dogs,” said Hare. “And I have no animals in a cage. Not a single one.”

Hare does his field work on chimpanzees and bonobos at primate sanctuaries in the African Congo and Uganda.


As with other articles that had also referenced about Ponso’s abandonment and isolation from others, a February 18, 2016 MetroUK online article  specifically mentions the loneliness of Ponso as the last surviving chimp—whose mate and son and daughter died a few years ago.  The isolation Ponso feels is only broken up by the rare visitor, such as a local man providing limited food and water seen in the video above, and a few others who visit.  This article also stresses more than other articles—even more so than the NY Times where it cited some of its information–that the New York Blood Center had been providing for the chimps food and care until:

“The firm [NYBC] were financially supporting his [Ponso’s] care until there was a breakdown in communication with the Liberian Government, according to the NY Times.

Read more: http://metro.co.uk/2016/02/18/abandoned-chimp-who-craves-human-contact-greets-new-friend-with-a-hug-5704570/#ixzz44LbpXU9b”


On the surface, the tale of Ponso and his lost community of chimps is deeply disturbing.  And my learning more about the issue did not displace that assessment in my mind.  The general situation of animal welfare certainly needs greater attention.  I always think about the differently attributed phrase saying something like a society is judged by how it treats the least or most vulnerable of its members.  In this case, the least members, are animals—Ponso–without a voice or vote in how they are treated by humanity.


However, my brief inquiries listed above in my learning more about this issue regarding Ponso and the other chimps are not my attempt to sway you one way or the other.  Just as with myself or any of us becoming aware of an issue, through a a news story, or celebrity or public figure we admire or follow, does not automatically have us agreeing or disagreeing with the news outlet or them.  But it is a starting point for awareness and discussion—at least, it is for me.  You have to decide for yourself what your viewpoint is.  And I welcome hearing from you.


Nota Bene :  If for some reason you have trouble clicking on the hyperlinked resources above, here are those direct links for you mostly in the order that they appear above:











About Gratiana Lovelace

Gratiana Lovelace is my nom de plume for my creative writing and blogging. I write romantic stories in different sub genres. The stories just tumble out of me. My resurgence in creative writing occurred when I viewed the BBC miniseries of Elizabeth Gaskell's novel North & South in February 2010. The exquisitely talented British actor portraying the male lead John Thornton in North & South--Richard Crispin Armitage--became my unofficial muse. I have written over 50 script stories about love--some are fan fiction, but most are original stories--that I am just beginning to share with others on private writer sites, and here on my blog. And as you know, my blog here is also relatively new--since August 2011. But, I'm having fun and I hope you enjoy reading my blog essays and my stories. Cheers! Grati ;-> upd 12/18/11
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27 Responses to WLW:  First Do No Harm, the Ponso Research Chimp Story, March 30, 2016 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #893a)

  1. March 30, 2016–Michelle Forbes had also shared this Toronto news link tweet:

    Which leads to this online article with a more extensive 14 minute documentary about the background of the chimps captivity:


  2. March 30, 2016–Vale Armitagina shared this additional Richard Armitage image promoting the #feedyourchimps message to NYBC (the three names listed are current or past NYBC Board Members)–though there must be many Board Members, so why these particular 3 individuals were singled out for this tweet is unclear:


  3. Perry says:

    Nicely balanced, Grati. I think the chimp situation is sad. I think Richard Armitage holding up a sign which is basically misleading, without doing even a 10th of the research you did to write your post, is pretty sad, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Perry,
      Thanks for your nice note–and for your post about Dr. Glimcher which I linked below in a comment. And I also found out a bit more about her and shared some links in reply.
      Earlier, I was also able to find Hodin when I googled him, but Millstein’s info did not immediately reference the NYBC connection. So I wasn’t sure if it was the same guy.

      Regarding the decision for the Michelle/Richard/Rhys group to hold up three names of current and past NYBC board members–we’ll not know what level of research Richard Armitage or any of them did or did not do, nor how he came to hold up that particular sign–but there must be many NYBC board members. So why were these 3 names singled out? Again, the limits of twitter not allowing enough character spaces for explanations, etc.

      Perhaps, we’ll learn more as the day goes on.

      Thanks & Cheers! Grati ;->


  4. March 30, 2016–Perry at her Armitage Agonistes blog shares about the woman named–Dr. Laurie Glimcher– on the sign Richard Armitage is holding of current and past NYBC Board Members:



  5. Wendy says:

    Grati Thank you for your research it had made the issue much clearer for me. I worked with Researchers who if animals were involved had to sign an Ethics clearance form which then went before an Ethics Committee. Many times they were returned with “please explain further” and in some cases rejected. I have signed a petition earlier today and was by trying to make a small donation lost the link to that page will try again later. It is a terrible world we live in at the moment. I do disagree thatRA should have done more research. He may have ,at least an alert was sent. Blessings for being such a caring person. Wendy


    • Hi Wendy,
      Thank you for your very kind note about my post. I was also interested to read what you shared about the Ethics Clearance Form at your insitution. At our university the Institutional Review Board (IRB) is the group assigned to oversee animal and human research participant ethics and regulatory compliance. And because some of my earlier research involved interviewing individuals–students and faculty about student learning outcomes for a particular educational endeavor, I had conducted 3 or 4 IRB approved research studies during my doctoral studies work. And even though, I was interviewing adults, there were still a lot of regulations to comply with–as there should be. And bless you for planning to make a donation for the chimps care! That is very generous of you! Cheers! Grati ;->


  6. March 30, 2016–Here is a link for information regarding protests done outside Michael Hodin’s home:

    P.S. I’d like to go on record to say that I’m not keen about these or any protests being made at people’s private homes. Their private homes may have other family members and individuals there that are not involved with whatever is being protested about. And I don’t think it is fair to put the “unconnected” (better word) people in an awkward and distressing situation.


  7. March 30, 2016–Thanks for liking this post! Cheers!

    Carolyn, nellindreams, & discovermarche


  8. March 30, 2016–I realized that Soluna (Thanks!) had shared a July 2015 Humane Society statement link over on Perry’s post, and I wanted to also include it here:



  9. P.S. I’m heading off to the office this morning in a few minutes. So I’ll have to catch up with this discussion around lunchtime. Cheers!


  10. Guylty says:

    That was really interesting, Grati – thanks for doing the research for us and presenting it for easy access. Leaving Mr A out of the whole equation – what has happened with that poor creature (the ape. Eh. Ponso!) is so sad. Just for reference – there is also a gofundme campaign running for him, which has further info on the current state of things. https://www.gofundme.com/sosponso
    Your post has definitely raised more awareness in me. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Irish Witch says:

    Thank you for posting this blog and links. I have been a vegetarian for 11 years and have done so purely due to my love of animals. If people are aware how animals are raised, slaughtered and used for science and cosmetic experiments there would be a lot more vegetarians and vegans. I never push my beliefs down anyone’s throat, unless I am asked why I am a vegetarian, then I will tell them. It is an individual choice that has to be made. Education of the subject is the key. If informed regarding the many aspects of animal treatment (wild & domestic) there definitely would be more vegetarians and vegans. Thank you again for this article.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Irish Witch, Thanks for your kind note about my posr! I’m glad that you enjoyed it! And thanks for sharing about your vegetarian diet and lifestyle philosophy. I’m only one month in as a vegetarian but I’m doing well. Though I am of the ova lacto variety–as a diabetic, I need my egg and dairy for the protein. And I’m a milk and egg girl. Ha! Cheers! Grati ;)


  12. March 30, 2016–Thanks to Michelle Forbes for her kind note (below) and for bringing Ponso’s plight to our attention with her post.


  13. March 30, 2016–Jennifer (@jenh58) tweeted a Humane society link for an NYBC response to the concerns from August 2015:


    Yet apart from one excerpted quote, this Humane Society post, doesn’t provide a link to the NYBC response that it references. And I couldn’t initially find it on the Humane Society site.

    Ah ha! I just found the link to the NYBC response/FAQ regarding Ponso and the other chimps:


  14. March 31, 2016–Thanks to Jennifer@jenh58 for tweeting the link to another Wayne Pacelle Humane Society blog essay regarding the ongoing quest to get the NYBC to return to funding the former research chimp’s care:



  15. April 02, 2016–I had missed seeing Michelle Forbes March 30th tweet with the link for Dr. Jane Goodall’s July 2015 response regarding the abandoned chimps, so here it is:

    And here is the direct link to Dr. Goodall’s July 2015 comments:


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