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In Loving Memory of Joseph Thomas

Our beloved colleague, Joseph Thomas, passed away in January of 2021. Joseph was a friend, mentor, and respected leader to all on the sanctuary team. 

We are deeply indebted to Joseph for his tireless commitment to the chimpanzees for over 41 years and for the sacrifices he made to ensure the chimpanzees’ safety. It is truly because of his heroic dedication and devotion that the 65 chimpanzees in our care are alive today. Joseph began working with the chimpanzees in 1979 and risked his life to care for the chimps during Liberia’s two civil wars and the Ebola crisis. When the funding for the chimpanzee’s care abruptly ended in 2015, Joseph gathered every bit of food and funding he could scrape together to feed the chimpanzees, keeping them alive until the international alarm was sounded and help arrived.

The chimpanzees and his fellow teammates at Second Chance were like family to Joseph. Over the decades, he grew to know and understand each chimpanzee intimately, from their history and family tree to their personality quirks and likes and dislikes. He was also an indispensable member of the Second Chance team—most recently serving as our Deputy Director of Operations and Chimpanzee Welfare—and an incredible colleague who was always there for his teammates.


In 2019, the Washington Post published a wonderful article featuring Joseph’s relationship with the chimpanzees. Joseph was also interviewed in the video below, which captures his spirit and unwavering dedication to the chimpanzees. 


Joseph’s strength, determination, and devotion to the chimpanzees will always remain an inspiration to us.

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