Incredible Moment as Chimp Vanilla Experiences the Sky for the First Time after a Lifetime in Captivity

Prepare to be amazed by the heartwarming moment Vanilla the chimpanzee, aged 29, is filled with pure joy as she beholds the sky for the first time.

This extraordinary footage captures the emotional scene as Vanilla, who has spent her entire life in captivity, steps outside and gazes in awe at the open sky, encouraged by alpha male Dwight.

Watch the video at the end.


Vanilla’s journey has been a remarkable one. After spending her early years in an experimental lab in New York, she was confined to an enclosure in California where she could only catch glimpses of the sky through a fenced roof.

However, her life turned positive when she was relocated to the Save the Chimps sanctuary in Fort Pierce, Florida.

On her move-in day to the Save the Chimps sanctuary in Fort Pierce, Florida, an adorable video captured Vanilla looking at the open sky in awe.

Upon her arrival at the sanctuary, Dwight warmly embraces Vanilla, and the happiness in her eyes is unmistakable.


As other members of her primate family join in the welcoming, Vanilla’s amazement at the sky continues to shine through.

The heartwarming video also captures her joyful exploration of the sanctuary’s three-acre island, where she mingles with her new family and witnesses them engaging in grooming rituals.

The chimpanzee was greeted with a hug from the alpha male, Dwight, as soon as she stepped into the sanctuary, where she would live with 225 other primates, 18 of whom lived on her island. Vanilla was visibly delighted by the new environment.

Dr. Andrew Halloran, a primatologist at Save the Chimps who filmed the touching scene, shares insights into Vanilla’s past and present.


He explains how her previous living conditions in California were far from ideal, with limited space and enrichment. However, at the sanctuary, Vanilla resides on one of the twelve islands, each designed to provide the chimpanzees with an open-sky playground.

She enjoys a special bond with alpha male Dwight, although she sometimes playfully steals food from him.

The sanctuary’s island communities span 150 acres, carefully matched to each chimp’s personality and behavior by primatologists.


Vanilla’s challenging early years were spent in cramped conditions, initially in five-square-foot cages hanging from the ceiling at the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP) in New York.

Later, she was moved to the Wildlife Waystation in California, where she remained in an enclosure with a fenced roof.

More of her new housemates were coming over to greet Vanilla as she looked into the camera and to the sky in disbelief.

Vanilla’s journey to freedom continued when the Wildlife Waystation closed its doors in 2019. After several relocations, she and her family, known as the Sunrise Seven, arrived at the Save the Chimps sanctuary in Florida.


They underwent a quarantine period before gradually integrating into larger family groups.

Today, Vanilla and her primate family have found solace in their three-acre island, free to explore and roam as they please.

The sanctuary is home to 226 chimpanzees, many of whom have endured solitary confinement after being rescued from laboratories, the entertainment industry, exotic pet trades, or roadside zoos.

Vanilla lives on one of 12 islands, separated by small waterbeds, allowing the sanctuary to give the chimps their open-sky playground.

This heartwarming story reminds us of the resilience of animals and the transformative power of providing them with a safe and enriching environment.

Vanilla’s journey from captivity to the freedom of an open sky inspires ongoing efforts to protect and rehabilitate chimpanzees and other animals in need.

The adorable footage also shows her joyfully running around the three-acre island.
At the end of the video, she can be seen with her new family, who are grooming each other.
When Vanilla is not exploring her new island with the other chimpanzees (pictured here), she sits atop a three-story climbing platform overlooking her new world.
When Vanilla moved to the Save the Chimp facilities in Florida, she had to be quarantined (pictured above) before joining her new family. 
Cages at New York’s now-closed LEMSIP lab are seen above, cramped spaces hanging from the ceiling lined on opposing walls in a windowless building. The chimps could see each other but were too far away to benefit from contact.
Conditions were only slightly better at the Wildlife Waystation (pictured above), where Vanilla was moved to when she was two years old and joined a family still caged in an enclosure with a roof.
Aged two, when she was moved from LEMSIP, she was among 30 chimpanzees sent to the Wildlife Waystation in California and joined a small family group that stayed in an enclosure with a fenced roof.

Watch the video below:


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