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Tumalo sanctuary’s first chimp, Topo, passes away

A 'beautiful soul' with 'a one-of-a-kind laugh'

TUMALO, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Topo, the first chimpanzee brought to the Freedom for Great Apes sanctuary in Tumalo (formerly Chimps Inc.) 25 years ago, has passed away at about 50 years of age, founder Lesley Day said Friday.

Topo was rescued from a trailer park in New York. Day said the family of apes at the sanctuary considered Topo to be the leader of the group.

"Topo has always been the big man, the boss," she told NewsChannel 21. "He keeps everybody calm. He kind of regulates who goes with who. And we're going to miss him so much."

Day said Topo was battling a heart condition and liver failure before he passed. She said he'll be cremated, and they will hold a memorial to honor him at the sanctuary.

Day released this statement about Topo's passing:

It is with deep sadness that we share the news that our treasured Topo passed away peacefully on Wednesday, August 5th, 2020.  He was the first chimpanzee to make his home at the sanctuary in 1995 after being rescued from a trailer park in upstate New York.  He was the alpha male, a wise, loving patriarch, and garnered the respect and adoration of both his chimpanzee and human family at Freedom for Great Apes.  He was believed to have been born in the early 1970’s.  No matter his age, Topo radiated a youthful spirit – often head bobbing to his human friends to solicit a game of chase.  His play started off with soft happy breaths that would develop into a loud audible unique Topo laugh.

Topo was a beautiful soul who brightened the sanctuary. He brought love to everyone around him.  His last few days were spent in the constant company of his human and chimpanzee family.  Surrounded with love and stories, he left us with his one-of-a-kind laugh.  The most difficult part of our work in providing lifetime care and sanctuary for chimpanzees is when we have to say goodbye.  These beautiful beings touch our hearts and remind us of how connected we all are.  Comfort comes from knowing that Topo and his family of chimpanzees have been given hope, fulfilled promise, and love in a sanctuary called home. 

All of us at FGA are grateful so many people have had the chance to be a part of Topo’s extraordinary life over the past 25 years.  If you would like to make a donation in honor of Topo for the support and lifelong care of his remaining chimpanzee family as well as future enhancements, please go to or mail to Freedom for Great Apes :

PO Box 7794 Bend, Or 97708.

Forever grateful,

Freedom for Great Apes Family

Article Topic Follows: Wildlife

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