Sudi, The Lonely Chimp



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Today I would like to blog about someone who has been on my mind lately. Someone who (I am quite sure) a lot of you have seen over the years. Someone whose eyes express a level of loneliness and deep sadness that no living being should ever have to experience in their lifetime.

I would like to be her voice on this blog post and share with you a little more about her and why her life matters. She is getting very old (along with her prison cell) and I don’t know how many more years or months she has left…

Her life and freedom should be as valuable as the lives of each one of us and as any other sentient being living on this planet.

There is no justification whatsoever of the vile act of taking away a being’s innate right to freedom in order to “use” them as a mere forms of  entertainment tools for spectators. And to boot, profit from it. Evil is the right word.


The first time I heard about Sudi was after the news broke in 2013 that a chimpanzee escaped from her cage into the general prison zoo compound and they had to sedate her after she climbed on an overhanging tree into the area opposite her prison.

She has been a convicted prisoner of the Emperor Valley Prison Zoo condemned to life in prison without the possibility of parole for more than 35 years. Her crime? Nobody knows.

I don’t know if you are feeling exactly the way I am feeling right now while I type this because ANGRY is an understatement. Thirty five years have been taken away from this chimpanzee. Thirty five years looking around the world from a lonely, atrocious, dark and lonely CAGE.

Nel Van Kamer is the woman who brought Sudi (her real name is Suzi) to Trinidad in 1977. According to her, Sudi was adopted by a Canadian couple who lived outside of Toronto in an old farm house. As she got older and bigger, the wife was having issues handling her.

Since chimps in their natural habitat live in communities, every time the couple would leave for work, Sudi will act up and be very distressed because she didn’t know if the couple would return…The husband eventually sold Sudi to a prison zoo in Canada and even though the wife tried to get her back she was unable to do so.


Sudi was raised like a human. She would use the bathroom, go for a walk, take a bath and she was even taught American Sign Language. Eventually, she was sent to our own prison zoo here in Trinidad whose director at that time also took two other chimps: Kiji and Njugo. Both of them passed away years ago leaving Sudi even lonelier.

The three of them, as babies, have been forcefully taking away from their  own mothers leaving them deeply traumatised. It is not strange then to understand why Sudi was so afraid and distressed when the Canadian couple used to leave for work…feeling abandoned and alone all over again.

Njugo was Sudi’s partner. Sudi was next to him when he passed away and they both shared the same cell for 35 years. They never had any children, making her emptiness after losing her partner, even greater.


Sometime ago, someone sent me pictures of Sudi in her new cage. Her face was resting on one side and if you could physically describe DEEP SADNESS AND DEPRESSION was in her eyes. My heart literally sank…and I thought: If I could observe this, how many more people have observed the same?

Why support an industry that mentally tortures animals so humans can be entertained and they can profit from them? Do you really feel comfortable/happy/okay that your hour or two of “entertainment” for your children causes so much pain in someone else’s life?

It is disingenuous to say that you love animals while paying a fee to see these animals in a prison. It is disingenuous to state publicly your love for animals and their welfare and yet work and lead a prison that PROFITS from them.



Many years ago, I watched a video of Sudi smoking (after a visitor threw a cigarette) and when they interviewed  one of the prison zoo officials about it, he was smirking throughout the interview, apparently finding the whole incident clearly amusing. There was nothing to smirk about.

Just a couple of years ago, I read an article where a local prison zoo official talking about the case of a three-year-old boy who was dragged across a moat by a 450-pound gorilla at the Cincinnati Prison-Zoo stated that he was sad about the case because of his love for animals and how elegant a silverback could be. Love for animals? And just like he was talking about acquiring a new pair of sneakers, he stated that he would love to have a “pair of them”.

The same official stated in that article that they have firearms on the job and people trained to shoot because human life “comes first”. So you are purposely in the business of buying and selling animals and profiting from them, you imprison them for LIFE taking away their innate right to freedom (the most valuable ANY being has) and to boot, you’re ready to kill them if necessary? Speechless.


Sudi does not have many years left. It seems like we should all applaud the fact that she has a new cage that is bigger than the one she had before. Oh, and she got a tv. The most bizarre reason why she got a TV came from a prison zoo official who stated that as a highly intelligent animal, he saw the need for mental stimulation for Sudi, and “what better than a television where she can see movements and hear sounds.”. Yes, because when you want to mentally stimulate any being you put them in front of a television.

Anyone who has visited this prison KNOWS that Sudi’s deep sadness is beyond evident. Stating that she is happy and excited because she has a television is delusive.

Our local prison zoo is expecting 6 more victims chimps arriving anytime soon. They will become the latest prisoners in the only official Animal Prison in T&T.

And for Sudi…she will spend her last days in the only place she probably remembers…her cage. Behind bars…with her same old, deeply depressed eyes…as a lifetime prisoner.

Maybe in her dreams at night she runs wildly . Maybe in her dreams she gets to climb trees in full excitement…an excitement I never got to see…Free from cages, free from sadness and loneliness.  Free from heartless humans who made a business out of her…

One day Sudi will obtain her freedom. And it will not be because her prison-guards will let her be free. It will be the day when she passes away and her soul will be able to travel pass-through the bars of her cage…

And I am quite sure that heartbreaking day, her prison-officials will express “deep sadness” for her loss.

After all, they “love” animals, no?

Maria Borde

Author: Maria Borde

I am an easy-going, empowered Vegan with a keen interest in health, wellness and happy living. I am also an Animal Rights Advocate. I blog and speak out against animal cruelty and other forms of animal exploitation. Please check my "About Me" page for more info.

2 thoughts on “Sudi, The Lonely Chimp”

  1. Hi. I was very interested in your story and it makes me extremely sad. Sudi aka Suzy was my childhood friend. She lived on my street growing up. We played tag and hide and seek all the time. One thing you should know is Suzy did start to bite as she reached puberty. However all the neighbourhood kids were very sad when she left. We often talk about those times. So sad the tail end of her life is lonely and sad.

    1. Hi Jackie, thanks for your message. I’m extremely sad for Sudi (Suzy) as well. I can only imagine how depressed she must feel after spending most of her life behind bars and in complete isolation. She should be in an animal sanctuary so she can spend the few years she has left with a little happiness.

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