May 21, 2010
9-Year-Old is Champion for Chimps
The Chimps Deserve Better campaign caught up with the inspiring young advocate to find out more about his passion for helping chimpanzees.
CDB: How did you become interested in chimpanzees? What is your favorite thing about them?
Brandon: My favorite thing about chimpanzees is that they are most like us. They are really smart and have their own personalities.
At first I wanted one as a pet. But when I started doing research on the computer I found out that chimps belong in the wild. Or, if they can't be in the wild, they should be in good sanctuaries.
When I found the Save the Chimps sanctuary website I thought that if I couldn't have one as a pet then maybe I could help one.
CDB: What do you think makes Save the Chimps such a special place? Do you have a favorite chimpanzee there?
Brandon: It is such a nice place because they rescue chimpanzees from labs. They have twelve islands where chimps can run free. The chimpanzees get good food to eat and get to live with a family. And, they can sleep under the stars at night if they want to.
After I went to visit Save the Chimps and learned about everything the chimpanzees have gone through, I decided I like them all. But, I guess Elway is still my favorite. Elway and I had a lot in common. Elway and I are almost the same age. He is ten and I am nine. Elway was apart from his father like me. My dad has been working in Iraq and is now in Afghanistan. He has been gone for five years.
CDB: Tell us more about your blog, Make a Chimp Smile.
Brandon: I started my blog in December because I wanted to raise money to bring Boy, Elway's dad, to the Save the Chimps location in Florida. Elway had already been brought over from New Mexico and Boy was still there. So I wanted to bring Boy to Elway.
Boy was lucky enough to be migrated to Florida before I raised enough money. That was so cool! So, I decided to keep my blog going to help the other chimps migrate to Florida. Right now, I am trying to raise $25,000 to bring 10 chimps from New Mexico to Florida. There are 89 chimpanzees still in New Mexico waiting to be moved who have never touched grass or climbed a tree. I also want to let people know about the Great Ape Protection Act and try to get them to speak out for the great apes.
[Editor's note: Save the Chimps' Great Chimpanzee Migration seeks to move chimpanzees who were rescued from the now defunct Coulston Foundation in New Mexico to the new sanctuary site in Florida.]
CDB: Why do you think it's important for the Great Ape Protection Act (H.R. 1326) to be passed?
Brandon: I am hoping that it will be passed so that chimps don't have to suffer anymore in labs. In labs they do testing on chimpanzees and give the chimps diseases. Even though chimps are so much like us, the diseases affect them differently than humans. I think it is sad that they are suffering when they don't need to. Also, the labs take the babies away from the mothers which makes the moms sad their whole lives.
CDB: Besides your blog, what other kinds of things are you doing to help protect chimpanzees?
Brandon: I had a booth at Central Florida Earth Day and it was so much fun! Lots of people came by to see what Make a Chimp Smile was all about and that made them want to make a chimp smile! I got 233 people to sign letters to their members of Congress in support of the Great Ape Protection Act. I also gave out a lot of information about The HSUS Chimps Deserve Better campaign including fact sheets, stickers and key chains. And, lots of kids came by my booth and made a chimp mask out of paper plates and construction paper.
Recently, I also enjoyed going around local neighborhoods and telling people about the Great Ape Protection Act. I gave out over 100 of my bookmarks. One side has information about my blog and Save the Chimps and the other side asks people to contact their congressperson and support the Great Ape Protection Act. So many people I talked to never thought about the chimps before but now they know that chimps have suffered and they support the Great Ape Protection Act.
I also really like sending care packages to chimpanzees in sanctuaries. I sent one to Elway for Christmas and one to Boy when he got to Save the Chimps in Florida.
I have also collected nuts, dried fruit, peanut butter and blankets for two other sanctuaries. One sanctuary is the Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest and they have seven chimps there. The other place I sent a package to was the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute. CHCI has three chimpanzees and they know sign language. That is so cool! Both sanctuaries are in Washington.
CDB: Do you have any advice for other people (young or old) who want to be more active for chimpanzees and other animals?
Brandon: I think everyone should have pride in what they are doing. Also I have learned that you shouldn't give up and that it is ok to ask for help because lots of people have helped me speak out for the great apes.