Research chimp finds comfort in troll dolls

Posted at 2:33 PM, Dec 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-09 16:33:00-05

A chimpanzee that suffered from the trauma of being a research animal has found comfort in an unexpected source: a troll doll.

Foxie was born in 1976 in a research laboratory and was used for hepatitis vaccine testing and breeding, Diana Goodrich, co-director of Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, told ABC News today. Foxie had four babies, including a set of twins, but was separated from them immediately after giving birth, and she lived in the basement of the lab with no natural light and no toys for years, Goodrich said.

These separations and years of testing caused Foxie to be “weary of new things” and “slow to warm up” when she arrived at the Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest in Cle Elum, Washington, in 2008.

“When she first came she wouldn’t touch any of the toys or blankets we gave the chimpanzees,” Goodrich said. “She would actually shove things aside as if she was angry at their presence.”

That is, until Goodrich found a troll doll while shopping at a thrift store in Seattle shortly after Foxie and the six other chimpanzees from the lab arrived at the sanctuary.

“I was thinking one of the chimpanzees would like it, but I certainly wasn’t thinking Foxie would,” Goodrich said. “She immediately went to it and fell in love and hugged it to her, she almost treated it like it was a baby. She was just fascinated by it.”

After noticing the chimp’s love for troll dolls, the sanctuary took to their blog and shared Foxie’s story, which prompted people to dig troll dolls out of their attics and order them from eBay to send to the sanctuary, Goodrich said.

“Over the years we’ve had a lot of different dolls donated. A lot of people have sent stuffed chimpanzees, which she’s actually not fond of at all,” Goodrich said, but one doll Foxie has grown fond of is "Dora the Explorer."

These dolls, which Foxie always carries with her, have acted as a “security blanket” and have helped Foxie feel more comfortable playing with other chimpanzees and her human caregivers, Goodrich said.

Foxie has collected “hundreds” of dolls and is still receiving them at least once a month, said Goodrich.

“You’d think after having several troll dolls, she’d pick her favorites and that’d be the end of it, but she always loves new dolls,” she said. “She gets excited about them.”