Remembering Sarah The Chimp

Thursday, March 6th 2008, 7:12 pm
By: News On 6

On your next visit to the Tulsa Zoo, you'll notice the absence of Sarah the Chimp.  She lived at the zoo for 27 years before her death last week.  The News On 6's Rick Wells reports those who watched her and cared for her remember her as a nurturing mother and grandmother.

Those visiting the chimpanzee exhibit at the Tulsa Zoo probably won't notice that one of the troop is missing.

"Now the group will go through a filtering of who's gonna take on what new roles," said zookeeper Maureen O'Leary.

O'Leary spends the most time watching, training and caring for the chimps.  She said Sarah's passing is likely the reason the troop is so quiet.  They seem to be waiting or watching for someone.

"You can be as upset as you want to be," said Maureen O'Leary.  "It's just that Sarah was a very, very nurturing mother."

The chimp was also a determined fighter.  Sarah suffered a stroke in September of 2006.  It affected her left leg and arm.  Sarah worked her way back to as much as possible normal activity.

"She had to find new and imaginative ways of moving around, but her quality of life despite the disabilities was pretty good," said Dr. Kay Backues.

Strokes in animals are like those in humans, said Dr. Kay Backues.  She says recovery requires re-learning.

Sarah never recovered completely, but did well enough to be reintroduced into the troop and she developed a very close relationship with Bernson, her youngest grandson who was born last summer.

"There are so many behaviors they show that demonstrate their likeness to us," said zookeeper Maureen O'Leary.

One is the nurturing, affectionate relationship they develop with the young ones.  And, that's likely what everyone will remember most about Sarah.