Candy the chimpanzee has been alone for more than 40 years and to many animal rights activists that time in solitary confinement is inhumane.
Last fall, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the nation’s leading legal advocacy organization for animals, filed a lawsuit against Sam Haynes and the Dixie Landin’ amusement park for its treatment of the 50-year-old Candy.
The ALDF allegesalleges Haynes and Dixie Landin’ violate the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by isolating and neglecting Candy.
Now the groundbreaking suit if successful would extend important legal protections to chimpanzees, who experts agree can suffer and experience in ways similar to humans and deserve special protections.
Candy, the country’s loneliest chimpanzee, subsists in a virtually barren concrete cage, where she passes her time staring into space, drinking Coca-Cola, and smoking cigarettes thrown to her by patrons.
Candy’s living conditions are grossly deficient and cause intense physical and psychological harm, according to the ALDF.
Chimps are a social and intelligent species, and need the companionship of other chimpanzees and opportunities for enrichment. Candy has none of that, and experiences painful and punishing solitary confinement, which has been condemned by world-renowned primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall and comparative psychologist Dr. Roger Fouts.
Chimp sits alone staring into space
Video footage acquired by ALDF shows Candy sitting in the corner of her cage for hours at a time, staring into space—a sign of severe depression. She has been known to rock back and forth—what animal behaviorist call “stereotypic behavior,” which is symptomatic of poor welfare, severe stress, or even mental illness. On other occasions, she curls up into the fetal position on the concrete floor.
“This is a landmark case for animal protection,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Chimpanzees don’t deserve to suffer in punishing isolation, and we will see that justice is served.”
ALDF represents Cathy Breaux and Holly Reynolds, two long-time Baton Rouge animal advocates who have fought for Candy’s freedom for three decades, as well as the Coalition of Louisiana Animal Advocates.
Chimp Haven, a nationally renowned chimpanzee sanctuary located in Louisiana, stands ready to provide Candy with a new home in a naturalistic enclosure that is suited to her physical, behavioural, and psychological needs, with expert veterinary care.
Lobbying efforts for decades
Breaux has been lobbying to free Candy for almost her whole life.
The first time Breaux saw Candy the chimpanzee up close she was still in high school. Now 63, Breaux had first gone to Fun Fair Park in her hometown of Baton Rouge.
Candy, who had attained celebrity as a character on a local television kids’ show, was living alone in a cage just 10 feet by four feet by six feet, smoking cigarettes that visitors tossed to her, according to a story in the Guardian.
“It was terribly sad,” Breaux says. “It just broke my heart.”
In her 30s, Breaux was shocked to find Candy still stuck in solitary confinement. She began visiting regularly and advocating on Candy’s behalf, teaming in the late 1980s with other Baton Rouge activists like Holly Reynolds to organize protests outside the amusement park.
Reynolds undertook a letter-writing campaign and with help from the city’s director of animal control, they managed to persuade the owner, Samuel Haynes Jr, to give Candy a larger living space and a few enrichment items donated by the protesters. Still, local law enforcement said it could not help a privately owned chimpanzee. And Haynes remained unrepentant, Breaux says, even ignoring letters she had arranged for from experts like Jane Goodall.
He basically said, ‘It’s my chimp and I can do what I want.’”
Not any more.
Candy now lives at Haynes’s new park, Dixie Landin’, and is the focal point of the first federal lawsuit filed using new United States Fish and Wildlife Service rules that place captive chimpanzees under the protection of the Endangered Species Act.
Photo credit: Hatem Moushir/ForceChange