12 Animals Die at Texas Sanctuary amid Winter Storm: We Were 'Having to Decide Who We Can Save'

Jen Juneau
·4 min read

Primarily Primates/Facebook Resident at the Primarily Primates sanctuary

Approximately 12 animals have died at a Texas sanctuary as a result of Winter Storm Uri, which pummeled the state this week and left many without power.

In a statement posted Wednesday on Primarily Primates's website, Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals — an animal-advocacy group that has managed the sanctuary, Primarily Primates, since 2007 — addressed the deaths at the San Antonio primate sanctuary.

"Every animal matters to us, and we are devastated," Feral shared in her statement.

Brooke Chavez, Primarily Primates' executive director, told the San Antonio Express-News that, before now, she has "never faced a decision" like the one she has to now: "Having to decide who we can save, depending on the predictability of which animals we can catch."

She added, "I never, ever thought my office would turn into a morgue, but it has."

Among the deceased are several monkeys and lemurs, as well as one chimpanzee. The sanctuary tweeted on Wednesday that they are working to save all of their animals and that they have "evacuated [dozens] of animals and kept others, [including] 32 chimps, baboons, monkeys + lemurs in heated bedrooms."

"We know this unprecedented Arctic blast is taking a toll on humans, which is why we are so grateful to the San Antonio Zoo staff for helping us transport and care for animals as well as the more than 60 volunteers who have organized meetups and driven their 4x4s in treacherous conditions to bring us supplies," Feral added in her statement.

She continued, "Their kindness brings some comfort during this nightmare. They are heroes, and so are our staff members."

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One of the animals who died, 58-year-old Violet, was the most senior chimpanzee at the sanctuary, "but she certainly did not act like it despite her pre-existing conditions," Primarily Primates shared in their release about the deaths.

According to the sanctuary, Violet "most likely" died from a stroke and did not die as a result of hypothermia, the sanctuary described the primate as "young at heart, outgoing and spirited."

"She loved to explore her habitat, which sits up on a hill overlooking the pond at Primarily Primates, where she had a great view of waterfowl and other wildlife," Primarily Primates continued. "Violet, who was used in biomedical research, also liked watching movies and looking at her reflection in her care staff member's iPhone selfie mode."

Chavez reports, according to Primarily Primate's release, "that currently all the chimpanzees are doing well and are keeping warm with properly ventilated propane heaters."

Primarily Primates/Facebook Resident at the Primarily Primates sanctuary

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"Staff members check on them every 20 minutes around the clock," they continued. "All other primates who remain on the property are comfortable and being provided with heat with the use of generators and heaters."

The 70-acre, San Antonio-based sanctuary, founded in 1978 and serving as "the first to rescue chimpanzees requiring lifetime care following medical research," is still looking for volunteers and donations of "jugs of water, gasoline for 12 generators + refilling of empty propane tanks," they tweeted on Thursday.

Those wishing to make a contribution to the sanctuary can do so under the "Donate" tab at primarilyprimates.org.