Niagara Gazette


November 6, 2013

DELUCA: Prestis mourn loss of Charlie the Chimp, carry on with animal sanctuary work


Niagara Gazette —

Beyond that Ulatowski, like the Prestis, didn't really think of Charlie as an animal. "He was as close to a human as you can get on the food chain." Charlie's death, he said, "honestly, was like losing one of my long-time patients."

Charlie's humans aren't the only ones grieving. For the past 21 years, Charlie has shared living space with his adopted brother, Kiko, a rescued chimp who is near totally deaf due to suspected abuse. The chimps concern for each other is clear in a photo Carmen loves, which shows Kiko wiping Charlie's nose.

"Our biggest concern now is Kiko," Carmen said, his voice breaking. He said chimps learn everything they know from those around them and Kiko has no experience with death. They left Charlie's body with him for six hours so Kiko could groom Charlie and lay next to him. But since they removed Charlie's body, Kiko has been endlessly looking for him and seems to respond hopefully with every noise from a car arriving or a door opening.

The Prestis aren't doing much better. 

"I hate saying its like losing a child," said Carmen. "I have two very good friends who lost their kids and I don't want to insult anyone, but when you think of spending 12 to 16 hours a day with someone for the past 26 years, you become very attached."

He recalled how, after the loss of a friend who died of pancreatic cancer, he'd started crying near Charlie. "He gave me a hug and was licking the tears off my face. He seemed to understand."

That kind of friendship is unforgettable and irreplaceable, but the Presti's dream of a primate sanctuary will likely be what keeps them moving forward. 

"We're all just heartbroken. But our main thing is to get this new facility built for Kiko and the other primates," Carmen said. Kiko's going to need it big time."



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