Below is an edited excerpt from his obit from 2014…
Save the Chimps is saddened to share that one of our most handsome and dignified chimpanzees, Roman, has passed away at the approximate age of 48, after a struggle with heart disease.
Roman’s exact date and place of birth are unknown, but it is estimated that he was born in 1966, possibly in the wild. Roman’s records start on May 6, 1975, when he was brought to Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, NM. Roman was used as a research subject in seven different biomedical studies. He was anesthetized at least 225 times and had multiple liver biopsies. One of the experimental vaccines tested on Roman was for contraception; it did not work, as Roman went on to father seven children.
In 1997, Roman was transferred from the US Air Force to The Coulston Foundation, a research lab also based in Alamogordo, NM. In 2002, Coulston went bankrupt, and Save the Chimps stepped in to rescue Roman and over 250 other chimpanzees. Roman joined Kiley’s family, becoming the group’s elder statesman. Kind, charming, and mellow, Roman won the hearts of both his chimpanzee family and his loving caregivers. One of his caregivers, Torrie, remembers:
“Roman’s eyes were always full of thought and love. He was the first chimp with whom I developed a close bond. I loved Roman. We all did. Everyone who met him fell in love with him. He was just special like that. He will always have a place in my heart.”
Roman was an important part of his group, and they respected him. Roman and his family
were released onto a spacious island home, which included a large Western-style platform known as “The Saloon.” He loved the island, and often slept on the Saloon under the stars.
Earlier this year, Roman began to show signs of his age, slowing down and eating less. All signs pointed to cardiac disease. A stubborn chimp, Roman refused to take most medications. Who could blame him, after years of being given substances in the research lab that only harmed his body? The veterinarians and chimpanzee care staff did whatever Roman would allow to see to his comfort and well-being, and his best chimpanzee friends Kay, Lupe, and Gertrude were never far from his side. As time passed, however, Roman became progressively worse, no longer eating or active. The veterinarians and his caregivers made the decision to humanely euthanize him. On June 17 Roman passed away peacefully on his island. His caregivers were with him during his final moments.
Roman’s last day seemed to play out like a movie. He spent his final moments on the island he so loved. The sun warmed his face, the wind blew through his hair, he foraged some sunflower seeds, and then he peacefully went to sleep. It was an experience I will never forget. Roman was the reason I woke up every morning, and and I feel privileged to have been a part of his world.”
Roman is survived by his son Nigida, and daughter Patty, both of Save the Chimps. Another son, B.C., and two daughters, Lena and Toni-Renee, reside at the Alamogordo Primate Facility (APF), waiting for their chance at retirement.
A large photo of Roman and Kay graces the road exiting the sanctuary, a daily reminder of the gentle, handsome chimp with the kind eyes who touched our hearts.
We love you, Roman.
May you sleep under the stars wherever you roam.