Naree – A Home at Last
It all started in 2003 when Jim and Alison were investigating the illegal trade in orang-utans in some of Thailand’s amusement parks. At Sriracha Tiger Zoo (STZ) they found a circus show in which two chimpanzees, an orang-utan, and some tigers were dressed up and trained to perform for an audience. The show was quite shocking with the older chimpanzee and the orang-utan both trained to pull a rickshaw around the ring with a tiger on board. Alison and Jim’s attention was immediately drawn to the very sad and deformed chimpanzee.
When Alison went over to the side of the ring and made chimpanzee noises, the chimpanzee named Naree came straight over to her and it was clear that there was something very wrong with her face. It was hard to tell what her overall condition was as she was fully clothed for the performance. After the show Alison & Jim approached the STZ staff, introduced themselves and asked about the condition of the chimpanzee. The staff said that they were also concerned and had recently had a veterinarian take X-rays of her face; Alison and Jim were welcomed backstage to see her and offer advice.
The management of STZ would not release her, so a campaign was started to free Naree. The campaign worked and Thai officials were sent to seize the chimp a couple of months later. All Alison and Jim knew at this point was that she had disappeared from the circus show. They could not find her, and no one would tell them where she had gone. Contacts in Thailand said that she had been taken to a government wildlife centre and had then been exchanged with a zoo in China. Naree was gone.
Fast forward to fifteen years later…..We were contacted by the Love Wildlife Foundation who were working with Bluetail Animal Aid at government wildlife centres in Thailand. They had come across a solitary female chimpanzee named “Natalie and she had facial deformities”. Alison knew instantly that it was Naree and in January 2018, she went to meet Thai officials from the Department of National Parks and they took her to see Naree. It was unbelievable, after so many years, and she ran straight over to see Alison and gave her a big hello! Getting all the paperwork done and arranging the transport details took months but by October 8th the move was on. Jeremy and Alison went to collect her and were really pleased that she let them hand inject her anaesthetic to get her into her travel box. Naree was an absolute star and was calm throughout and totally relaxed inside her travel box.
Once they had all arrived safely back at the park, it quickly became apparent what a truly nice person Naree is. She had just gone through an extreme change, endured a long journey, yet Naree was friendly, clever, and totally switched on. She met Lulu on day one. The two ladies played for a bit and it was only aborted only when Lulu decided she didn’t want to be cooped up inside anymore. Day two was Rodders’ turn but he turned into a bit of a monster trying to bite Naree’s feet. Naree was firm with Rodders when it came to what she considered to be acceptable behaviour but she was also friendly and submissive and wanting to make friends. Next came Big Bryan, they had contact through the mesh for a few days and then it was time to open the door. Bryan has many issues of his own so taking things slowly with him was a priority but the introductions went well between Bryan and Naree and they quickly moved on to outside access and the reintroduction of Lulu.
Throughout it all Naree showed no negative behaviour or opinions, illustrating what a truly remarkable chimpanzee she is. Rodders was then reintroduced to Naree and he quickly realised that his new roommate was a lot of fun. Last but not least was Ash. Getting Ash to behave in a reasonable manner towards Naree, was not an easy or quick process, but after a period on the naughty step Ash and Naree are now the very best of friends, watching them play wildly together is a sight to behold. Naree with her gummy laughing face and Ash pretending to be a blanket monster – just fantastic! I’m so very pleased that the charity set up in Jim’s memory was able to play a part in bringing Naree home.