Even the famous chimps led sad lives.

Enos the space chimp

When Nikki was rescued by the Jane Goodall Institute, he was found dressed like a little boy.

He had on a gold watch, was wearing denim shorts, and carrying a suitcase with a change of clothes.


The chimpanzee was an orphan of the bush meat trade in Liberia.

Later he was bought by a South African expat and he dressed him up.

Today Nikki lies recuperating in the Johannesburg zoo after he was shot in the stomach.

That gun shot came shortly after he had savagely attacked American student Andrew Oberle at Chimp Eden, in Nelspruit in South Africa.

Nikki’s life has been a sad one, and he is not alone.

Even the famous chimps led sad lives. The most famous were those apes NASA sent into space in the 1960s.

They were the vanguard of space exploration and they have been forgotten.

The first chimp into space was Ham. He was blasted into suborbital flight on board a mission titled MR-2 5 on January 31, 1961.

To train him to push levers while in space flight, his trainers used mild electric shocks to his feet. When he got it right he was rewarded with food.

Like Nikki, Ham had his origins in Africa, he was captured by animal trappers in Cameroon

Unlike the humans who returned from space to ticker tape parades and keys to cities, Ham was quietly shipped off to the National Zoo in Washington, where he lived for 17 years. He died in 1983.

Enos went one better than Ham, he made orbit, on September 13, 1961. The story goes, that Enos was so overcome with joy when his space craft returned to earth that he ran around the recovery ship shaking his rescuers hands.

A year later Enos was dead after contracted dysentery.

No one knows what happened to Enos’s body, the belief is that after a post mortem his corpse was unceremoniously destroyed.

About Shaun Smillie

Journalist, with a love of bones, fossils and other things dug up. Fisherman and occasional beer maker.
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