Viewers are left 'in floods of tears' after Lucy the Human Chimp04/20/2021
Lucy, the Human Chimp viewers left ‘in floods of tears’ by ‘selfless carer’ who moved to remote African island with ape who was raised ‘as a person’ to help her adapt to life in the wild
- Jane Temerlin, from Oklahoma, adopted Lucy from a zoo at just two days old
- She and psychotherapist husband Maurice treated her with ‘all human comforts’
- When she reached puberty, they took her to Gambia, feeling she was ‘dangerous’
- Student Janis Carter was hired by the couple to help care for 11-year-old Lucy
- Janis moved into rainforest with Lucy for six years to encourage her to adapt
- Viewers were left in ‘floods of tears’ after watching the documentary last night
Viewers of Lucy the Human Chimp were left ‘in floods of tears’ last night after watching a couple try to ‘raise’ an ape as their daughter – and praised the ‘selfless’ woman who tried to help the animal adapt to the wild.
The Channel 4 documentary, which aired last night, followed Jane Temerlin and her late husband Maurice, a psychotherapist and professor at the University of Oklahoma, who adopted a two-day-old chimp from a zoo in Florida when she was just two days old and gave her ‘every human comfort’.
But when she reached puberty, they took her to Gambia, where she spent the last decade of her life: one of the couple’s students, Janis Carter ended up living in the remote rainforest with Lucy for six years, trying to encourage her to forage and mix with the other chimpanzees.
Viewers were left sobbing after watching the programme, and praised Janis for trying to help the animal adapt to her natural surroundings.
One said: ‘Balling my eyes out watching #LucyTheHumanChimp. That woman never turned her back on her.’
Viewers of Lucy the Human Chimp were left ‘in floods of tears’ last night after watching a couple try to ‘raise’ an ape as their daughter – and praised the ‘selfless’ woman who tried to help the animal adapt to the wild (pictured, Lucy with Janis Carter, who tried to help her adapt to the wild)
Jane Temerlin and her late husband Maurice, a psychotherapist and professor at the University of Oklahoma adopted the chimp from a zoo in Florida when she was just two days old and gave her ‘every human comfort’
Another wrote: ‘What a woman Janis is! This programme highlights how messed up humans are and the damage we cause on nature. Utterly devastating.’
The heart-breaking experiment began two days after Lucy was born on January 18, 1964. ‘She was born at a roadside zoo in Florida,’ Maurice said at the time. ‘Jane went to collect her when she was only two days old.’
‘The mother was fed with some coca cola spiked with a strong tranquiliser and when she fell into a deep sleep, the baby was taken from her arms, and handed to Jane, who names her Lucy.
‘They flew home on a commercial airline and covered her by a blanket, Lucy slept the whole way on Jane’s shoulder and once Lucy got home, our scientific adventure began.’
Janis spent over six years living on a remote island in Africa desperately trying to help Lucy adapt to life in the wild
During the 1960s, Lucy became almost as famous as the Beatles, as the story of her upbringing emerged – she even appearing in Life magazine.
‘Raising Lucy, we’ve given her every human comfort possible,’ added Maurice, who died in 1988.
‘In the evenings, she’ll sit around studying herself with her favourite mirror, and occasionally fix herself a gin and tonic, squeezing the lime with her teeth.’
Maurice and Jane raised the chimp ‘as their daughter’ and acted as though they were ‘a family of three’ (pictured, on Lucy’s birthday)
However, by the time Lucy reached puberty her behaviour became unpredictable and the couple decided to release her into the wild.
Janis said: ‘They were in a predicament of their own making…at the time, I don’t think anyone knew the downside of it. I know they didn’t.’
The couple searched for a new home for the ape in America.
They travelled to the Abuko nature reserve in Gambia, with Janis, a 26-year-old graduate student at the university, who had bonded with Lucy while working as one of her carers.
During the 1960s, Lucy (seen with Janis) became almost as famous as the Beatles, as the story of her upbringing emerged – she even appearing in Life magazine.
‘I think Lucy recognised that there were chimps and that chimps were a different category, but I don’t think she put herself in that other category, she saw herself as a human,’ said Janis, 70, who still lives in Gambia.
At Abuko, the couple hoped Lucy could learn the basics of wild survival before being released into a remote jungle.
Janis revealed the plan was that she would spend one week in the country after the couple left.
Jane said: ‘Nobody had taken a chimp who had been born in the States and taken it back to the wild. Particularly one who had been deprived of growing up with chimpanzees.
The couple trained Lucy to sleep on a king-size mattress, drink breakfast of coffee, oat meal with raisins and a glass of orange tang, and even fish
‘The hope was that she would be free, and part of the chimp community and bond with them. But many steps and hazards between the idea and the reality of that.’
After two weeks, it was time for the Temerlins to return to the US, leaving Lucy behind, with Janis explaining: ‘We were saying goodbye to our daughter, she was an intimate part of our lives for over a decade. A long time.’
Janis said the reality was far from the freedom Maurice and Jane had hoped of: ‘Lucy had a million physical reasons to be depressed and then she had a whopping emotional one of what in the world am I doing here? Where is Maurice and Jane? I had no way to explain that to Lucy.
‘Why act like life was great? It wasn’t for her. She didn’t have any friends, she was clearly dependent on me.’
The couple treated Lucy as though she was ‘their daughter’ during the decade of time they spent with her
‘She lost tremendous amounts of weight, mostly because of parasites and started to loose patches of hair.’
‘I think a lot of it had to do with the unfamiliarity of the food and the climate. She was just like barely hanging on.’
She explained: ‘I set my last extension to three months…after that, I really had to get moving with my own life plans because I had an assistant role, I was teaching, I had a dog, I had a boyfriend.
‘Not long after that finances became an issue and I moved from the hotel into a tree house in the reserve.’
However, by the time Lucy reached puberty her behaviour became unpredictable and the couple decided to release her into the wild
But instead of returning to the States as planned, Janis stayed in the tree house.
She said: ‘The strong point was, I’d be 100 metres from Lucy and I’d go back and forth with great ease.’
Janis started a programme to help Lucy and some other chimpanzees to adapt to their life in the wild.
Janis said she became a ‘focal point of social contact’ with Lucy, and vis versa, saying: ‘There was no chimpanzee and human, and it was just Janis and Lucy.’
Janis, one of the couple’s students, travelled with the couple to Africa and ended up staying with Lucy to try to encourage her to forage and mix with the other chimpanzees
Jane confessed she ‘pleaded with Janis to come back’ but said: ‘She was steadfast. She wouldn’t do it.’
Janis said she ‘wasn’t even aware of the depth of her feeling for Lucy’ until she had to face the decision to stay in Africa or leave her behind.
After 18 months, Janis moved with Lucy – and some other chimpanzees – to a remote and uninhabited island, a jungle island in the River Gambia National Park, where she lived in a cage constructed by the British Army.
She said: ‘In the beginning I had a bed, a gas burner and a mosquito net. I would just take water from the river and the dirt would settle to the bottom and that’s what I would drink.’
Janis revealed the plan was that she would spend one week in the country after the couple left, but ended up staying with the monkey for years
Janis said it was ’emotionally difficult’ and it could be six months before she received letters from other people.
Jane said: ‘Waiting for every letter from her, “What’s going to be next, is Lucy going to be hurt or sick, is Janis going to be overwhelmed”. I worried about her health and well-being every day.’
Still Lucy struggled to adapt, refusing to forage or socialise with the other chimps.
Janis said it went ‘on and on and on’, for months as she desperately tried to encourage Lucy to adapt life in the wild.
Finally, Janis lost her temper, saying: ‘I expressed exasperation like I had never expressed it before. I don’t know if I was passed out or I actually went to sleep but when I woke up, the world had changed. She was eating leaves.’
Instead of coming back to the US after dropping Lucy off in Africa, Janis moved into a tree house in the reserve and tried to help the chimps
Even though Lucy’s foraging skills were improving, she couldn’t connect with the chimps and ‘wanted all her social skills’ met by Janis.
Lucy still refused to interact with the other chimps. ‘I had to withdraw for her to feel empty to the point she would look to someone else to fulfil those needs,’ said Janis.
‘I knew how it was impacting on Lucy, that she was feeling ignored and left out, and forgotten and unloved.
‘But if I gave in, she wouldn’t have been able to realise what we all had hoped she would, which was to be independent, free and have choice.’
Janis said it was ’emotionally difficult’ and it could be six months before she received letters from other people
Janis said the longer time she spent on the island, the less she wanted to leave, calling it a ‘paradise’ that she had been ‘lucky’ to lead.
She explained: ‘I tried to keep a balance with the life on the island and the life on the outside world. But it was very difficult.’
She said she felt she became ‘unbalanced’ because there was ‘no way’ to be immersed in the world with the chimps and also be immersed in a human world, saying: ‘I couldn’t live in both worlds. I just gradually drifted away from family and friends. I stopped writing and stopped receiving letters as well.’
She added: ‘I don’t remember being lonely. I sometimes felt like I had too much human stimuli from the chimps.’
Even though Lucy’s foraging skills were improving, she couldn’t connect with the chimps and ‘wanted all her social skills’ met by Janis
But finally, in 1985, after six years and three months on the island, it was time to leave: Janis no longer felt safe after she was attacked by a male chimp.
She recalled being charged at, before the monkey ‘grabbed her leg’ and she was ‘dragged through a thorne bush, where her body was caught.’
Janis had a ‘hard time adjusting’ to life back with other humans, with Jane saying: ‘It was incredibly stressful for her.’
After a year away, she returned for an emotional reunion with Lucy.
But finally, in 1985, after six years and three months on the island, Janis was attacked by a male chimp in the group and had to leave
‘I took some of her human objects that had been so important to her before,’ she said. ‘She picked them up, looked at them and put them back down again.
‘Nothing that had been important to her before – that mirror was just her very favourite object – it meant nothing.
‘After that, we groomed each other and talked a little bit, and then she suddenly without really any indication, grabbed me and just pulled me really tight.
‘It was very intense, it was not like any other embrace we had had. It signified the life that we had shared together.’
Tragically, Lucy’s remains were found on the island shortly after Janis’ departure. There was no indication of a cause of death.
Tragically the following year Lucy’s remains were found on the island. There was no indication of a cause of death.
Jane said she had been ‘waiting’ to hear of her surrogate daughter’s death, explaining: ‘I was always just waiting. When were we going to get the call? And it was a very, very difficult thing to hear.
‘It was a terrible loss for all of us.’
Meanwhile she said she was ‘grateful’ for the life Janis was able to give Lucy in the wild, with Jane explaining: ‘I was so grateful to Janis for giving Lucy this chance after her time with us.
Many of those watching the emotional documentary were left in floods of tears and praised Janis for her commitment to the chimp
‘She had some really good years and she had freedom and she wasn’t in a cage.
‘She was protected; she was loved; she had Janis; but I wouldn’t take a chimp from chimpanzee mother again.’
Many of those watching the emotional documentary were left in floods of tears, with one commenting: ‘Incredibly emotional viewing. Hats off to Janis for dedicating her life for all those years to keep Lucy safe after that vile couple abandoned her. Animals belong in the wild with their own species, not in cativity.’
Another wrote: ‘Got to credit Janis…devoted her life to Lucy…I reckon Janis needed Lucy just as much as Lucy needed her. That couple ruined her life.’
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