Ponso knelt down to watch as a grave was dug for his child.
Staying close as a local man prepared the burial site, Ponso made a scooping motion above the ground with his hands—mimicking the motion of the dirt as it covered up the very last companion from his harrowing life up to that point.
Ponso had already watched 19 other members of his makeshift colony starve to death and succumb to disease. He was the last one left, the sole survivor of a group of chimpanzees who were abused in experiments and then dumped on an island off the coast of Africa when they were no longer of use to experimenters.
Over a period of 30 years, Ponso was there as every one of his companions died.
In 2005, experimenters stopped paying for food and other provisions for Ponso and the remaining chimpanzees. By 2013, the last few surviving members of this colony of displaced apes—Ponso’s mate and their two offspring—had died, leaving Ponso alone.
A kind local man has been keeping Ponso alive for the last few years by taking food out to the island in a small boat, and Ponso recently has met a few other visitors who are banding together to help him. Despite being abused in cruel tests and abandoned, Ponso has been welcoming his new visitors from an animal-welfare organization with open arms—literally! Hopefully, his days of isolation and loss will soon be over and he’ll be able to spend the remainder of his life in the company of other chimpanzees in a reputable, proper sanctuary.
Let Ponso’s story serve as a lesson: He is not the only chimpanzee who has been used in cruel and painful experiments and then forgotten.
Recently, after a U.S. government panel concluded that experiments on chimpanzees are “unnecessary,” the National Institutes of Health (NIH) promised to retire all federally owned chimpanzees to sanctuaries, but as documented by PETA and reported by The Washington Post, since this announcement, few have been retired and many have died while waiting.
We need your help. We can’t let what happened to Ponso happen to more chimpanzees, right here in the U.S.