It’s been like a nine-year “alternative spring break” for Susan Parker: she has been making the six-hour drive from her home in Norfolk, Virginia, to help out at the IPPL sanctuary for a week at a time ever since 2004.

This month really does mark the ninth anniversary of her first visit here. On that trip, in addition to helping our animal care staff with their regular tasks, she got to get personally acquainted with our dear blind gibbon Beanie.

Beanie with Susan Parker

On Susan’s first visit to IPPL in 2004, she got to groom our gentle special-needs gibbon Beanie. This is a precious memory: sadly, Beanie passed away only a few weeks later.


She likes animals of all kinds. In the past, she has worked at the Virginia Aquarium as an aquarist (feeding and medicating the aquatic residents and cleaning tanks of sea turtles and fish), and she has primate experience, as well, from her many years as both a volunteer and part-time keeper’s aid at the Norfolk Zoo. One of her favorite animals there was Harlee, a lively, sweet-tempered little callimico monkey. (”He would sit on my shoulder and click in my ear,” Susan says.) She has even named her current “dog-child” in Harlee-the-monkey’s honor.

Susan Parker feeding

Susan likes keeping busy and helps with a variety of gibbon care chores.

Besides her main job as a surgical tech in an outpatient surgery center, Susan is now working part-time at a vet office. She welcomes the chance to keep working in the animal care field and is looking forward to more training there. She clearly loves being around the animals, and her cameras are full of photos of her canine clients.

Yaya female woolly at Lagunas

On her last trip to Peru, where she has volunteered repeatedly at a primate rescue group supported by IPPL, Susan snapped this adorable photo of Yaya, a rescued woolly monkey female at Ikamaperu’s Lagunas field site.

She has also traveled in search of animal adventures: once to Belize, where she saw—and heard—black howler monkeys, and three times to Peru to volunteer at Ikamaperu, a primate rescue group that IPPL has helped support since 2006. There, she helped with woolly monkey and spider monkey rehabilitation at Ikamaperu’s Tarangue reserve and Lagunas field station.

This week, Susan has been helping with a variety of animal care duties (including feeding meals and hosing enclosures) as well as taking photos of the IPPL gibbons. And leaving some flowers for an old friend.

Bullet's grave

A dog person with a special partiality for Chow Chows, Susan enjoys all the IPPL dogs. She was very fond of our much-loved blind dog Bullet, and this time she planted pansies at his grave.