Sunday, November 07, 2004

ELDERLY CHIMPANZEE LIVES LAST DAYS IMPRISONED

Saving Sam
At 56, the Sacramento Zoo chimp isn't getting any younger, but he is getting plenthy of love -- and help

Sam the chimpanzee moves gingerly on arthritic limbs, his leathery feet kicking up dust as gleeful children point at him from outside his glass dome.

On his best days, Sam shows flashes of his acrobatic past, climbing rocks, grabbing ropes and scaling his way to the uppermost stretches of his enclosure to glimpse the sky and revel in the sun's warm rays.

But as the swatches of silver in his coarse black fur confirm, Sam's youth is far behind him. At 56, he is the Sacramento Zoo's senior resident and is among the oldest chimpanzees in captivity in the country.

Time has taken its toll. Sam is less enticed these days by the fresh fruit his keepers offer as treats. His eyes are clouded by cataracts. He suffers from colitis. His heart is giving out, and his longtime caretakers are bracing for the inevitable....

Sam was born in 1948, records show. When he was 3 years old, he was taken from the African jungle and shipped to the United States and his new home, the Sacramento Zoo...