"The Gorilla Girl of Grants Pass"
Cate Battles, Travel Grants Pass
August 6th 2019
Photos courtesy of Ann Southcombe
From the Cincinnati Zoo to Wildlife Images, Ann Southcombe’s 40 year career of raising and rehabilitating animals has been a fascinating experience very few have had. This week I had the pleasure of meeting up with Ann to discuss the upcoming world premiere of “Gorilla Girl”, a documentary by Heartisan Films and a benefit for Wildlife Images.
As I walked into Rogue Roasters in downtown Grants Pass, it wasn’t hard to guess which person I was there to meet. Sporting a ‘Squirrel Fest’ hat, squirrel t-shirt, and squirrel tattoo- I had spotted Ann in the wild! After ordering our coffees and finding a table, we spent the next hour and half discussing her experiences raising primates as well as her time rehabilitating native wildlife here in Southern Oregon.
Hear the story of "Gorilla Girl" Ann Southcombe on August 17th at Southgate Cinemas in Grants Pass!
Growing up, Ann knew she was destined to work with animals, so after graduating high school, she quickly applied for a job at the Cincinnati Zoo. Unfortunately, the zoo did not hire women in 1965, so it wasn’t until 1970 that Ann became the second female to be hired as a fulltime zoo keeper. In the seven years she spent working there, she helped raise seven gorillas. In 1978, Ann began working with Koko the gorilla and her companion Michael in a language studies program at Stanford University. Working alongside Penny Patterson, one of the world’s leading primate psychologists, she helped teach the gorillas American Sign Language (ASL). After Stanford, she moved to Chattanooga where she raised Chantek, a hybrid Sumatran/Bornean orangutan. Ann trained Chantek to use the toilet, how to negotiate for treats, and chores like picking up toys in his room. For other jobs, she later traveled to South America to research the Amazonian Pink River Dolphins, was a caretaker at rescue animal ranches in California, and created enrichment activities for animals at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida. After relocating to Grants Pass, her career took her to Wildlife Images, where she rehabilitated injured or orphaned animals so they could be released back to the wild.
During my time with Ann, it’s clear she cherishes the years she spent raising primates and other exotic animals. However, it seems her favorite memories of working as an animal relations specialist has been here in Grants Pass. Ann explained, “It was an emotionally and sometimes physically draining job, often working 10-12 hour days at Wildlife Images, but spiritually rewarding because I felt connected to the natural world on a local level and knew my purpose was ultimately bringing these animals back to the place they’re meant to be.” One of her favorite memories was the time an orphaned bear cub was brought in, so incredibly tiny and young their eyes had not yet opened. After caring for the cub, they relocated it to a den with a sleeping mother with two babies, and the cub latched onto their new mother instantly and fell asleep.
The world premiere of Gorilla Girl is happening August 17th at Southgate Cinemas in Grants Pass. 100% of the proceeds goes to Wildlife Images, a rehabilitation and education center. Signed copies of Ann’s newly released book, “Tales from Gorilla Girl” will also be available to purchase.
For Further Information
To watch a news interview with the directors, follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yl-_ToBhuqc
WHAT TO EXPECT:
6:00 – Doors open
6:15 – Live music
6:30 – Introduction by the directors of the film Rob Grobman and Antonio Melendez
6:45 – World Premiere
7:30 – Q&A with Ann Southcombe and directors
7:45 – Animal Ambassador Encounters with Wildlife Images