For a short time in the '90s, Joe the chimp was a kind of movie star. He was in commercials and hung out with Renee Russo in the movie "Buddy."
But Joe's career took a different turn in 1999, according to the Washington Post. When his acting roles dried up, Joe was handed over to the small Mobile Zoo in Wilmer, Alabama, where the Hollywood life gave way to solo living in a small chain-link cage. Animal rights activists say the chimp was sometimes subjected to harassment by peanut-throwing onlookers and grew stressed enough that he pulled out his hair.
The zoo's owner told AL.com that Joe had imprinted on humans after "being treated like a baby." He said he tried to socialize him with other chimps but had no success. So for more than 16 years, Joe lived alone with a color television and DVD player that he used to watch movies.
Not anymore. Joe has moved to Save the Chimps, a sanctuary in Florida for former research, entertainment and pet chimpanzees. His retirement was made possible due to a recent change in federal law. In June 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared all chimpanzees — both in the wild and in captivity — are endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The move came in response to a 2010 petition by several groups, including the Jane Goodall Institute and the Humane Society of the United States, that urged the U.S. to recognize all members of an endangered species as endangered, regardless of where or how they live.
In January, PETA filed a lawsuit against the Mobile Zoo, saying the zoo violated the Endangered Species Act by keeping Joe isolated from other members of his species and "denying him the complex environment that he needed."
The group agreed to dismiss the lawsuit when the zoo offered to give up Joe to the Florida sanctuary. On the way there, he stopped and had a brief meeting with Goodall.
At his new home, Joe has spent time grooming a female chimp named Geraldine and even gave her a hug when they first met. Handlers at Save the Chimps describe in him as kind, playful, happy and energetic.