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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 23, 2003

Fair includes monkey business, 4 times a day

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Ricky, a 3-year-old chimp, is part of "The Great Ape Encounter and Chimpanzee Show" at the 50th State Fair beginning this weekend at Aloha Stadium. The half-hour show will be staged four times a day.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Pam Rosaire Zoppe is ape about apes; they've been her life. And she's sharing her apes and her livelihood at the 50th State Fair, opening today at the Aloha Stadium parking lot.

"I raise them like my children," she said of six chimps who are here with her from Florida to monkey around for kids and families and provide a bit of education in the process.

Her shows, "The Great Ape Encounter and Chimpanzee Show," will be staged four times daily during the fair.

"I've been doing this since I was 7, since my mama started it all," said Zoppe of her passion and occupation. She's 56.

In the half-hour show, she and husband Roger, work with the chimps — clad in costumes she makes herself — and offer stunts that her chimps often have done on TV, in films and in commercials.

"The hardest thing to get a chimp to do is to just sit still; they fidget a lot," she said.

"But when they do good, they get rewarded. With hugs.

"They're very affectionate with me, and they have various acrobatic skills. They listen to me more than my husband. The cutest is our youngest, Ricky, who's 3; Geraldine, at 42, is the oldest."

Zoppe's mother was a lion trainer and her father an all-around animal trainer. Her grandparents and other ancestors were also involved with animal acts. Zoppe represents the eighth generation active in training and working with animals.

Her chimps all have names. Besides Ricky and Geraldine, her family includes Newton, Kenya, Chimba and Saboo.

"They're natural comedians," she said of her brood. "And they are a people magnet; folks just adore them."

Newton holds a special place in her heart. "He was born premature in my hands. His mother had twins and he was the only one who survived; his mom and the other baby didn't make it."

Chimps, she said, can live to about 55 years old, and they need and thrive in the company of other chimps.

"Ricky was originally bought as a pet; the lady who bought him realized that chimps are not solitary animals; they are hard to control and take special care and loving. She loved him enough to turn him over to someone who could provide the care and other chimps for him to be with.

"The socializing with other chimps is so important; we've heard of chimps being sold (in the) pet trade, and they can grow into 200-pound serial killers if you don't know how to properly raise them."

Yes, she said, animal rights activists occasionally claim that her chimps should not be working as circus acts; that they should remain in the wild.

"But when they see what we do, and the love we have for the animals, they stop" bickering, said Zoppe.

As part of the appearance, Zoppe said the plight of the chimp is shared. "We want to educate the public about wild chimps in Africa, where they are threatened and could eventually become an endangered species, since the natives still eat them. Something must be done to protect them," she said.

Her goal is to build a facility at her Florida base to take in homeless chimps who have nowhere else to go. "And there are a lot of them out there," she said. Most are abandoned by pet owners who didn't know better.

The Zoppes and their chimps arrived here by ship. "We pretty much drive everywhere (on the Mainland) and often fly, but this was a boat trip," said Zoppe. "The chimps were on the deck, and could see out, and were able to walk around the ship ... with life jackets on. They loved it."

Favorite foods? "Bananas and grapes. And all kinds of fruits and vegetables. They don't like monkey chow, which is like processed dog food. Give Ricky that and he gives it to the dogs."

The chimps are real hams, she said, so they love applause from the audience. And for their performances, they each dress themselves.

"If they don't like what they have to wear, they let you know," said Zoppe. "They'll have a fit."

• • •

The Great Ape Encounter & Chimpanzee Show

Part of the 50th State Fair.

2, 5, 7 and 10 p.m. during the fair's run.

Aloha Stadium parking lot.

Free with gate admission.

682-5767 or www.ekfernandez.com.

50th State Fair

Dates: May 23, 24, 25, 26, 30, 31, June 1, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15.

Hours: Fridays, 6 p.m.-midnight; Saturdays and Sundays, noon-midnight; May 26, noon-midnight; June 12, 6 p.m.-midnight.

Admission: $3 (12 and older), $2 (4 through 11), free (3 and younger).

Special Events

Military Appreciation Day: Memorial Day (May 26) , noon to midnight (free admission for active duty and retired personnel and dependents with valid ID).

Pepsi Days: June 1, 8 and 15 (noon to 6 pm., 50-cent admission with empty Pepsi can; all rides priced at 2 or 3 coupons).

Wristband Days: every Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.; Memorial Day (May 26), noon to 6 p.m. and again 6:30 p.m. to midnight; June 12, 6 p.m. to midnight; $15 wristband good for unlimited rides during specified times.

Additional admission events

Nozawa's Ark Petting Zoo: $3 (adult free with paid child).

Overdrive Live Concert: May 31, 6:30 p.m., $5; featuring Aloha, Koa'uka, B.E.T., The Next Generation, Keahiwai, Sean Na'auao.