Sunday, September 23, 2007

Day 21 -- Finding sanctuary

I'm writing this from a secret place hidden in the orange groves a few miles from Wauchula, Florida: the Center for Great Apes, which houses chimpanzees and orangutans. Most of the residents come from the entertainment industry or pet situations, and each one has a story.

I first had an opportunity to visit CGA on my trip 7 years ago (when it was known as the Center for Orangutan and Chimpanzee Conservation). I have been back at least once a year ever since. In 2000, there were two orangutans and six chimps, including two who had just arrived and were not yet out of quarantine. Director Patti R told me then that she expected to grow to hold maybe 15 or so apes (if I'm remembering correctly). But the need is great and she has been asked to take on many apes who were being "retired" from show business or whose owners were overwhelmed trying to care for them. CGA is now home to more than 40 chimps and orangs, and the facility has grown dramatically to make room for the larger population.

When I visit I get to stay in a little cabin on the grounds of the sanctuary. When I first heard about CGA, the word "magical" was used repeatedly. And it is a magical place, for those of us who are privileged to visit and volunteer here but also for the apes, many of whom came out of sad situations, who get wonderful care and enrichment.

Maybe I'll write more about CGA later -- and maybe add some photos. The sanctuary's wireless network doesn't reach all the way to the cabin, and that's probably a good thing. I'll have to actually read the books I've been carting across the country. By 4:30PM, all the hirsute residents have retired to their night houses, so even though it is still light out, there is no one to visit. I'll get to see them all in the morning -- for the next several days, as I will be staying until Thursday. Not sure what kind of work I'll be doing, but I heard that filing (as in filing rough spots off metal) is not one of them. (Yea! It's too hot to even think of doing that.)

About the weather: I feel like a moist blob much of the time. It has been somewhat cloudy and very, very humid. Went through another squall on the way down here. I hear there may be a rain storm coming in our direction. A good soaking might wash the Florida wildlife off the car.

I was going to write a separate post about the bugs on the windshield. I was going to title it: "Flying sex bugs." These little bugs are everywhere. I first ran into them in Tennessee, I believe, and then again in Georgia. But in Florida it's like a plague.

They're less than half an inch long and have red spots that I first thought were big red eyes. The female and and smaller male are literally hooked together as they crawl across your parked car, fly through the air, or splatter on your windshield as you barrel down the highway. By the time I arrived at CGA my windshield was almost opaque, it was so covered with bug guts. I've learned that they're called love bugs (I wasn't too far off) and found some information about them on Wikipedia.

Not sure whether I'll get online everyday while I'm here, but keep those comments and emails coming. And take a few minutes to read about some of the chimpanzees and orangutans who live at CGA.

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