Niagara Gazette

Opinion

November 6, 2013

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

Niagara Gazette — Charlie died in his sleep on Monday and the Presti family is heartbroken. 

The 28-year-old chimpanzee suffered from an enlarged heart, and died halfway through his life expectancy. It's a common ailment for captive primates.

For those who don't know of the Prestis, Carmen and his wife Christie are founders of the Primate Sanctuary in Niagara Falls. They've been in the news often over the past eight years as they fought to get approval to build a new primate sanctuary on their property in Wilson. The approval finally came in July. But, the project they hope to break ground on this spring will never benefit the one creature they wanted most to be there. Charlie.

I spoke with Carmen Presti on Wednesday about the loss of his friend, a primate he taught to communicate in sign language and who enjoyed watching Animal Planet and Nikolodian, eating tacos and occasional treats from Dairy Queen.

When Charlie was uncomfortable in his last days, he would call out to Carmen several times in the middle of the night and Presti would go down to see what he needed. If it was a drink, Charlie would touch his throat, or if he wanted food, he would touch his belly. Carmen lost 15 pounds tending to Charlie over the past few weeks. But the communication made things so much easier, especially when Charlie needed X-rays or blood tests.   

"Charlie and I could talk to each other just like I'm talking to you," Carmen said to me. "He understood everything we told him."

Presti recalled the first day he met Charlie when he and his wife were dating, more than 20 years ago. Christie, who already owned one monkey, asked Carmen to travel with her to Ohio, to meet a chimp she had heard about.

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