LOCAL HEROS : Bob + Nim

Whether you are new to the conversation on Animal Rights or believe yourself to be a blossoming Advocate, one thing is for certain, OKIE or not, you must see the film Project Nim. In our upcoming Issue2, we have a live interview with Ingersoll which takes you to the time 2 time Oscar winner, Simon Chinn, became inspired to tell the story of Normanite Chimp, Nim Chimpsky. With worldwide attention and praise for the film, local hero, Robert Ingersoll has been catapulted into the journey of his heart’s purpose, raising awareness for Animal Rights worldwide. The film was released in 2011 on the same day as Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Once you see the film, you will understand it’s a historic biographical profile that cannot be ignored, the story is beautifully told, has audiences erupting with laughter as they watch Nim grow up on screen via the documentary footage available via the controversial experiment.  I have seen it 3 times and have been inherently touched to tears and pulled to the cause every time. Bob receives emails from around the world daily from people who have just watched the film and are now ready to assist in the mission of releasing all captive chimps and primate friends into a new free chapter. Here with us, Bob shares a bit on how his first day at Psychology 101 at OU led him to meeting his buddy Nim and how the movie Project X, in the 80’s with Matthew Broderick was directly influenced by the story of our own, Nim.

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What called you to work with the animals at IPS?

I heard about Washoe and Roger Fouts the year before I arrived at OU, and was intrigued by the idea that a chimpanzee was using sign language. The first class I attended at OU was PSY 101 and coincidentally, Roger was the Professor.  I realized just that in that first session. I approached him after the class and told him I wanted to work with him or at least see these chimps, so he put me in touch with one of his grad students and a few days later I was hanging out with Ali, Nim’s brother.  IMG_5296-copy

 Did you always have a connection to animals?

No, I had not had any real connection to animals before the chimps, other than a household pet dog.

You and NIM had an immediate connection upon his arrival at IPS, talk about that……

Well, I had two years of experience with chimps before Nim came back to the IPS, so I had some idea of how to act around a chimp.  And we simply liked each other right from the start, like I say in Project Nim.  Like two humans that are drawn together as friends are drawn together, it’s like that, I think.  We just liked each other.

With 2011-12 being the Year of the Animal Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Project Nim….Project X coming out in the 80s, were all these films influenced by NIM’s story?

The original Planet of the Apes was based on a French novel from 1963.  The most recent one, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, had some amazing similarities.. It turns out the writers were directly influenced by the stories of Nim and other sign-language chimps, here’s where they mention it.   Certainly Project X relied on elements of our work with sign language and chimps tied into its story. Sadly, the chimps from Project X had to be rescued by my pals at Primarily Primates in San Antonio, Texas, after that film was made. Bob Barker and his foundation actually provided funding to help those chimps find their way to Primarily Primates.  Years later, through the secret network, Nim’s brother Onan was relocated to Primarily Primates from LEMSIP, in 1996/7 or so.

When you were trying to educate people on the work you were doing with Nim, what were some frustrations you recall witnessing?

Mostly that once Nim and Ally were out of LEMSIP (a scientific research facility which held primates captive for research), and the rest of the IPS chimps were forgotten, it seemed to me.  I worked very hard to make sure that ALL the IPS/OU chimps
were remembered, not just the ones that had learned sign language.  That’s why Dr. Jim Mahoney says in the film about me,  “He was the only one who cared.”  No one cared about the non-famous ones.  Nim was safe, but the rest of his siblings and friends from the IPS remained at LEMSIP until the mid 1990’s.  Many died there.  And no one at OU, no one in Norman, no one anywhere really seemed to care much about that. Certainly, no one with any control over the situation cared.  There was concern from a few people, of course, who had had contact with the chimps from back in the day.  In particular, Kathi Hurst, who had worked with Thelma, a chimp from Norman, was with us….  But very few folks wanted to hear us bring up the topic of “captive chimps”.  Now, of course, things have changed a lot for chimps.  But still, 800-plus of Nim’s friends still remain in NIH hands and still need our help.  With the Great Ape Protection Act and Cost-Saving Measure, they may get it!
 
As NIM’s favorite sign was “PLAY”….how have you integrated this into your life? What did NIM teach YOU?

I try to have fun.  A key to life is to have some fun while you do serious work.  And we try to do that as much as we can, while still remaining focused on the goal.  And that is to help as many animals as we can.  I happen to be able to help chimps and monkeys based on my history with them, but I am equally concerned about ALL the animals.  We work with other Animal Rights groups as much as we can.  I try to live my life without imposing on other species, thus I’m vegan and stay away from using animal products of all kinds.

If you could speak back to the Oklahoma audience in a candid voice, what advice do you offer from your experience as an Okie?
There are still IPS and OU chimps alive and in need of your help, and they are Oklahomans themselves, and deserve as much help as you can deliver to them.  Save the Chimps have IPS chimps, and so does Primarily Primates and Chimp Haven. Wildlife Waystation in Los Angeles took in many LEMSIP chimps. I hope that some Oklahomans would reach deep into their hearts and their pockets and help these chimps, help get GAPA passed and funded, and soon. That’s what I would ask for.

 A quote you try to live by:
If you think you can, you can!!

Here below is a link to a short of Bobs with his time with Nim. Buy the movie HERE and email Bob HERE to get behind his efforts as a Recognized and Worldwide Advocate for Animal Rights.

Check out Oscar winning James Marsh talking about choosing to tell Nim’s story as a biopic.

Aimee Tietze Adams is a Photographer, Writer and Editor In Chief of OKIEMAMA Magazine.

Comments

  1. I just want to second the message that the oppression and enslaving and killing of any living being is morally repugnant. The minimum standard for anyone aspiring to live as a peaceful being is to be vegan. Our culture routinely promotes speciesism as casually as it once promoted racism. We can and must do better.

  2. Gerald Lavelle says:

    The film captivated me! I totally felt heartbreak. So many more emotions that I can’t even describe. We know so much more now yet problems still exist. Large companies tearing down the rainforests and poaching still exist and that needs to stop!

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