We found her in a cage at a circus in Atibaia, in the countryside of São Paulo state. The floor was covered with paper towels, which she used to eat when the food offered was not enough. The circus has agreed to exchange her for a zebra. Tuca was her name, and when she was a teenager had all her teeth pulled out. My son George, who died prematurely a few years later, accompanied Mark Schwarz, who had a Commercial Breeder of chimpanzees in Morrete, Parana, took her with him.
Tuca, which had never been a mother, although she possibly was more than 35 years old, would be placed in a group to try to give birth and her children would be sold. At that time we had no idea that a few years later Tuca and most of the chimpanzees from Morrete would be part of the GAP Sanctuary in Sorocaba.
At that time, to buy a baby chimpanzee or an adult, a person should be very rich, as a former zoo director told us according to what it was practicing in animal trafficking market. A baby chimpanzee used to cost $ 20,000 and an adult, a little less.
Tuca spent little time in Morrete. In 2001, she arrived in Sorocaba sanctuary, accompanied by Lulu, Ditty and Flint, the male of the group. The Breeding Center of Morrete was closed when Marcos himself was convinced that his work was an aberration, even more for someone who considered himself a primatologist. With his help, in the following years we managed to rescue many of the chimps that he had created or imported and sold to circuses and zoos.
Flint died a few days after their arrival; a fulminate heart attack killed him. He was still young, and strong, with a singular personality, and could have lived many years more. Gilberto arrived a few weeks later. When he saw Ditty, by whom he fell in love with, returned to the enclosure after climbing the wall due to our initial inexperience. Today he is the father of Luisa, Pedrinho and Cecilia, with their mother Ditty.
Tuca never had luck with males. In the circus, they told us that she lived during a time with Hulk, before he got blind, and he beat her. Then, with Flint she never had much success, the same with Gilberto. She cried when she saw Gilberto making love to females - Lulu, Margaret and Ditty - and ignored her. With Pongo, the contact lasted a few minutes. As he did with other females, he bit her on the buttock, for his madness does not allow him to mate with females.
Tuca finished as adoptive mother of Carioca and Bruna (coming from former circus Garcia), both having arrived at the sanctuary when were teenagers and found in her a devoted and caring mother.
Our revolt against circuses began, perhaps, when she as a newcomer and we gave a baked potato – to eat it, she had to scrape it with her fingersnails, due to the total absence of teeth in her mouth. After that, we received many other chimpanzees whose teeth had been extracted without pity or remorse: Jango, Margaret, Alex, Tyson, Jeber, Bob and Hulk. This reinforced our commitment to fight with all our strength and not to rest until the last chimp was out of circuses. It took ten years, but we fulfilled this mission and Tuca was the one that gave us the initial start of this fight.
Tuca also taught us not to rely on electric fences. In the first minutes that we released her, she crossed the wires, taking shocks without even care. We also learned to deal with adult chimpanzees who escaped. Tuca was sweet and we had a great access to her, but she was stubborn. I asked her to go to one side and she went to another. As long as she not obeyed, like the babies did at the time, one she escaped and I asked the handler Meire to bring the van. I knew Tuca would not deny a ride. With Meire driving with her and I in the back of the car, we did a "tour" by an incipient Sanctuary and managed to make her come back to her enclosure.
On this day we learned, and after we ratified that the majority of females do not fear the electric fences and most of them escape. The last experience was with Catarina: I left the area around the door and she followed me up the posts, without caring about the shock.
Rene, a handler who is with us since the beginning of the sanctuary, also had a great intimacy with Tuca, as he has with other chimps. But with Tuca he walked up and cut the grass with her inside the enclosure.
Tuca was had losse much weight in the last few weeks. The only way we had to treat her was using anesthesia. We suspected of a serious infection, but the risk of anesthesia was huge. Her heart could not resist. She was not taking drugs and would not allow to use needles with her. When we decided to use anesthesia, since there was no other option, her heart stopped and we could not make it hit more. Tuca, a survivor of abuse that circuses practice with their animals, at least spent 11 years with us, with peace and love, to compensate for her over 35 years of pain and suffering, exploited without mercy, to amuse humans.
The sacrificed body of Tuca now rests in the the cemetery of the sanctuary, along with some of her companions in misfortune. Her soul flew to another dimension, where cruel humans can never hurt her. She is now free, but their adopted sons, Carioca and Bruna, did not understand her departure. Carioca looks for me in the morning, asking me with his gestures and incisive look. I try to explain to him, but it will not be easy to make him understand me. In the next room, Pongo, the window neighbor of Tuca, lost in hallucinations that disturb him, still waits for her to appear on the other side, to exchange endearments. His wait will be useless and he will ask the walls, his hands and everything around him and Tuca will probably be one of the ghosts that will haunt him.
REST IN PEACE, DEAR TUCA, WE WILL NEVER FORGET YOU!