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DES MOINES, Iowa  —  The Great Ape Trust launched with promise in 2002.

It started with funding from a wealthy donor, free land from Des Moines, and a psychologist named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world at the controls.

The facility spent its first nine years conducting groundbreaking research like teaching endangered bonobos to speak and communicate with humans. The problems started in 2011, when the main donor pulled out and the facility struggled to raise the money needed to continue.

The psychologist spearheading the work left two years later, which put the goal of a world-renewed research facility even further out of reach. However, a volunteer stepped in to keep the vision alive.

“There was a time when we didn’t know how we would get to the end of the month,” Doctor Jared Tagliatela said.

The first challenge for Tagliatela was paying the bills and securing support for North America’s only bonobo research facility. He turned to federal agencies, private foundations, university donations, and the community for help, and was able to raise enough money to make the $300,000 annual budget.

“It was a lot of heroic efforts on a number of people’s part that kept us going,” Tagliatela said.

Failure was not an option with the financial stress easing, so Tagliatela was able to turn his attention to running the facility.

Now, though, the days of allowing the public to interact with the bonobos at the Ape Cognition and Conservation Initiative are over. Even researcher Amanda Epping keeps her distance.

“We don’t ever go inside of their enclosures with them, everything is through protective mesh. So the biggest hole you could touch them through is about a two by two-inch square,” Epping said.

The change was necessary in order to protect people from the unpredictable bonobos and to protect the great apes from illnesses carried by humans.

Reduced physical contact is not the only change, though; researchers say the facility and apes now have structure.

“We do a lot of cognitive testing, and usually that takes two forms. Either we use a computer and the ape interacts with a computer via touch screen or even a joy stick,” Doctor Tagliatela said.

At seven years old, Teco is the youngest born at the facility. Like an average seven-year-old, he loves to play video games.

“We are looking at if the apes can take things from the virtual world and understand that they have a real-life connection to the actual, physical world,” Epping said.

That’s just one of more than a dozen tests researchers conduct. The goal is to get all the bonobos communicating and to determine whether the exposure to human language really teaches the apes this skill.

“Or are we just tapping into a way to kind of get at what they’re doing naturally, and that’s really what our focus is now,” Tagliatela said.

The team is also focused on the bonobos’ wellbeing.

“Jared and bill have don an amazing job of taking care of these bonobos first,” said Epping.

But it was not always that way. Many criticized former director Sue Savage-Rumbaugh. In 2011, caregivers complained about mistreatment and had safety concerns.

Earlier this month, Channel 13 visited the facility when the USDA was conducting an inspection, during which officials determined the bonobos are healthy and the facility is clean. This will allow the number of bonobos held at the facility to double, and the director expects its accreditation to process next year.

Mating could take place as early as 2019, with baby bonobos expected in 2020.

AACI would like to update its lobby so it can host tours for visitors. For more information, click here.

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa  —  The family dog wasn’t enough to keep a thief out of a West Des Moines home over the weekend.

After attempting to break into the home, the dog’s barking was enough to send a shirtless thief sprinting into the street, but the suspect was committed. After lurking in the street outside the home, he eventually returned with a lawn ornament that he used to rip the screen and break the glass on the front door. The man was able to get inside, and spent more than three hours going in and out.

The dog was not injured and the homeowner says all that was taken was prescription medication.

When the man wasn’t burglarizing the home, he was vandalizing their cars. Surveillance video shows him trying to climb onto the roof of a truck in the driveway. After slipping twice, the suspect eventually laid down on the roof.

Anyone who can identify the suspect is asked to call the West Des Moines Police Department.

In this week’s Murphy’s Law, Keith Murphy says MLB needs to catch up with the times, and get rid of outdated, nonsensical blackout rules. The blackouts alienate longtime loyal fans, and prevent coveted younger fans.

In this week’s What’s Bugging Andy, Andy Fales says he knows enough to stay away from the latest video game addiction: playing Fortnite.

 

DES MOINES, Iowa — Each year thousands of people in the United States become victims of human trafficking and in 2017 there were 74 cases reported in Iowa, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Saturday night, models walked the runway at Wakonda Club to support Dorothy’s House, a safe place for victims of trafficking.

House of DSM partnered with Dorothy’s House for the Fashion Show of Support to raise awareness to the issue of sex trafficking.

A trafficking survivor, who spoke during the event, said trafficking has many different faces and it often happens to young women in a variety of places and situations.

Shay said it’s important that people in central Iowa know it’s happening here.

“People think that it’s just kids on I-80, I-35. they think that they’re in abandoned homes, in handcuffs and chains. There are kids in high schools, in every single high school here in Iowa, that this has happened to. Kids Against Human Trafficking went around to speak at high schools and 300 kids came forward in a year to say that some type of sexual abuse has happened to them and some were sex trafficked. So these are kids that are going to school and going home at night,” Executive Producer of House DSM Fashion Show Julie Shay said.

Shay said the promise of a modeling career is one of the many ways young girls are lured into sex trafficking and she wanted to use this show as a platform to educate and raise money for Dorothy’s House.

“Sex traffickers promise them the world and basically they show up for an audition and then bad things happen. The models that I worked with had agencies and were all very reputable so they didn’t run into it, but the girls that were having a harder time with their work fell into some sex trafficking. Not that fashion leads to that at all, but it’s a lure to how bad people get them in,” Shay said.

Dorothy’s House helps victims of trafficking and gives them a safe space to live and thrive.

“The outcomes for women and children who have been trafficked and exploited is absolutely devastating. And the belief systems that individuals create in terms of their sense of self worth and that their bodies are their only asset that they have to take care of them is something that they’re taught over and over and over again in this industry. And if there’s one thing that we hope that they can take away from their time at Dorothy’s House is to reconnect with that authentic person that they were born to be,” Dorothy’s House Executive Director and Founder Kelly Markey said.

The proceeds from the fashion show go to Dorothy’s House to support more victims.

If you or someone you know is a victim of trafficking call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

DES MOINES, Iowa  —  Food lovers flocked to downtown Des Moines on Saturday afternoon for a popular event.

Guests arrive with empty stomachs and leave feeling full at the annual Food Truck Throw Down. More than a dozen food trucks parked along Cherry Street, and several participants are new this year. Ryan Newstrom, who quit his desk job to pursue his passion for cooking with his Cornbread Barbecue truck, is one of the newcomers.

“I love feeding people, it’s what brings me joy,” he said. “When people take a bite of my food and I see the smile on their face, that’s what it’s all about for me.”

Newstrom said food trucks are so successful because they cater to people wherever they are.

PERRY, Iowa  —  “It’s been very hard for the whole family,” said David Busch,  the biological uncle of the late Sabrina Ray. “We’ve been trying to get her ashes to put her to rest, where she belongs.”

David Busch, the biological uncle of the late Sabrina Ray, was brought to tears talking about just how difficult the past year has been since Ray’s death.

“With her ashes, we don’t know where they’re at,” said Busch. “We would like to have them back, so family…can put her to rest.”

Busch says the family would like Ray to be laid to rest in De Soto, in the same cemetery where other family members are buried.

“My dad and my nephew John, Sabrina’s oldest brother, have gone over to the courthouse, and they’ve tried getting it and they wouldn’t even release it to John,” said Busch. “They say Marc and Misty still have the rights until this is all said and done.”

On Friday night in Perry, near the bench and tree that honor the memory of Sabrina Ray, a candlelight vigil was held to try and bring some healing to the hurting hearts that are still coming to terms with the tragedy of Ray’s death.

“When Sabrina died, for days I kept checking the news, hoping that maybe they got something wrong, either wrong about her death or wrong about the apparent circumstances of it,” said Pastor Rick Gates of Crossroads Church. “Because all of those things have just rocked everybody’s minds and hearts and everything about their lives here in our community and they’re hurting.”

Pastor Gates spoke of love, hope, and even forgiveness, while also praying for justice. As those gathered tried to light candles near the tree planted in Ray’s memory, winds blew out the flames. It seemed sadly fitting, since the light of young Sabrina Ray’s life blew out before it ever truly got to shine.

FORT DODGE, Iowa  —  A Fort Dodge man is recovering from being accidentally shot by his dog.

Richard Remme is a veteran with a conceal and carry permit. He had his gun on him in a belly band under his overalls while playing with his dog Blue. Despite hearing the gunshot, Remme says it wasn’t until his leg felt cold and wet that he realized what happened.

“This was a what, one in two billion? One in 100 million, whatever the odds are of this happening, a freak chance of this happening. There’s a mechanical safety and a trigger safety on this gun. How did this gun go off? I have no clue,” he said.

Doctors say the bullet did not do any major damage to Remme’s leg, and the man is also optimistic about his relationship with Blue.

“I am not worried one bit about the relationship with the dog. The dog is actually at home looking for me,” he said. “They told me that both times they were at the house that the dog was going bonkers trying to find me.”

Remme is expected to make a full recovery.

MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa — “This is my community,” said David Suarez at a rally held Thursday Afternoon/Early Evening in front of the Henry County Courthouse in Mount Pleasant. In signs and speeches, protesters expressed their opposition to the ICE raid that they say is ripping families apart. Suarez personally knows the men who were detained and their families, and showed up to the rally to show support for them. Suarez came to America from Ecuador in 2006. Next week he’ll become a United States Citizen. Suarez is now a local Bilingual Community Development Manager at Community 1st Credit Union and he calls what happened yesterday in the community he now calls home devastating.

“It was a really sad experience,” said Suarez. “We started receiving a lot of messages from the families affected by the raid. We can feel the confusion and the scare in the air, between these families.”

For one year George Gaylord worked alongside the men who have now been detained by ICE, at the Midwest Precast Concrete Plant. Gaylord is extremely upset about the arrest of his former co-workers, men he calls friends, and he showed up to this rally in front of the county courthouse protesting the raid to show his support for the families that have been affected.

“It’s not like they`re making lots of money or anything like that,” said Gaylord. “I mean, whoever told on them, they ruined families. They hurt people. They hurt children. They hurt wives, mothers, you know, this is a horrible separation.”

Tammy Shull is the leader of the Iowa WINS group, which stands for: Iowa Welcomes Immigrant Neighbors. This is her answer to those who say if you are in this country illegally, you`ve broken the law, and must face the consequences:

“We don`t know the answer on all of these people,” said Shull. “They were rounded up in a group, so we don’t really know what the story is on each of them individually. I also think that many people don`t understand that it is impossible in many cases for people to immigrate legally and they are making a choice for their families and their children for a better future, and you know, many of us would do the same if we were in their shoes.”

INNISFAIL, Alberta, Canada – The video was a hit with some, but Canada’s Discovery Wildlife Park is taking a hit for it.

The private zoo has been charged with two offenses under Alberta’s Wildlife Act after caretakers allowed a captive Kodiak bear to be hand-fed ice cream in a Dairy Queen drive-thru in Innisfail.

After a video of the incident was posted to Facebook in January (it has since been removed), critics deemed it irresponsible, though one of the zoo’s owners, Doug Bos, said it was educational, per the CBC.

“The message was: Don’t feed the bears. Don’t stop on the side of the road. If everybody would listen to the video, that’s what the message was—don’t do this,” Bos told the CBC in January.

The zoo also emphasized that it took care to eliminate risk: The bear was on a chain, and the scene was shot before Dairy Queen opened (the shop’s owner was the one doing the feeding).

The zoo is charged with taking the 1-year-old bear from its facility without notifying provincial officials, and Bos says he plans to plead guilty. “We were busy. We made a mistake and we didn’t email them,” he tells the Canadian Press.

The second offense relates to instances in 2017 where similar notification wasn’t provided.

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