Happy Birthday, Popi! See the Rescued Orangutan Celebrate in Her True Sanctuary Home

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3 min read

Sipping a pineapple smoothie, dismantling a watermelon–peanut butter–blueberry cake, and being surrounded by guests who only want the best for the birthday girl—that’s how Popi, once exploited by Las Vegas orangutan-beater Bobby Berosini, celebrated her big 5-0 in her accredited sanctuary home. She and PETA have so much cause for celebration.

Popi's 50th Birthday party! When you turn 50, you have extra special treats… like a watermelon-berry birthday cake…

Posted by Center for Great Apes on Saturday, April 24, 2021

Nothing can make up for the decades of birthdays Popi marked while with Berosini, being forced to perform and—when not onstage—confined to a cramped, windowless locker anchored to the floor of a bus.

An orangutan is held inside Bobby Berosini’s trailer. This is where Popi and others lived when not being used onstage.

But Florida’s Center for Great Apes (the accredited sanctuary that Popi now calls home) certainly gave the second-oldest female Bornean orangutan in the U.S. something to smile about.

PETA’s Been Celebrating Popi for Years

Popi reportedly appeared in the Clint Eastwood movie Any Which Way You Can (1980) and was also used in Going Ape (1981). Then in 1989, a dancer working at the Stardust Resort and Casino near Las Vegas filmed Berosini backstage viciously beating an orangutan minutes before each performance, for seven days in a row. PETA exposed how Berosini—who was using Popi and other gentle, endangered primates in a nightclub act—not only beat the intelligent apes backstage but also kept them locked inside steel boxes. Popi was subjected to these conditions for nearly two decades.

A PETA supporter protests entertainer Bobby Berosini’s cruel use of orangutans in Las Vegas.

And even though a lawsuit filed by PETA forced Berosini out of the ape-exploiting business and even (reportedly) caused him to leave the country, it wasn’t the end of the line for Popi: Before his very public downfall, Berosini sent her to Hollywood trainer Steve Martin, who kept exploiting the vulnerable ape for well over a decade. After being moved to a research facility in 2008, Popi finally got the consideration she’d deserved all along—in 2012, she was retired to the Center for Great Apes, where she receives the highest-quality care and can explore the sanctuary’s elevated tunnel system, observe everything going on around the center, and socialize with another orangutan, named Tango.

Celebrate Popi’s Birthday by Helping All Great Apes

Just as Popi was retired, American Greetings must retire its use of greeting card images of great apes in demeaning, clownish poses. Chimpanzees and orangutans, the apes featured most frequently on the company’s cards, are currently at risk of extinction—wild populations are dwindling because of habitat loss and the illegal pet trade. Just like Vegas shows and Hollywood productions, greeting cards featuring great apes dressed in silly costumes and making funny faces promote disrespect for them and mislead the public into believing that they’re prevalent in nature when, in fact, they’re endangered. So urge American Greetings to join top stock-image agencies, including Getty Images, Shutterstock, and Dreamstime, in banning unnatural images of primates:

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