Gini Valbuena

When Carole Baskin and Big Cat Rescue became known for trying to stop the trade in exotic cats as pets, Gini Valbuena began slandering them in an attempt to draw the attention off the subject; Exotic Animals as Pets, which is not a subject anyone can defend, and try to misdirect attention in any way she can.

Gini Valbuena runs a photography studio in her home where people pay to come have their pictures taken with a baby chimp or baby orangutan.  She also uses the babies for photos by themselves, by dressing them up in baby clothes, for calendars and such.  She keeps one adult chimp (at least) in a barred cage in her back yard and she has turned a room inside into a cage as well.  She hands out cards that say Valbuena Photography and Valbuena Chimps and defines herself by the latter.  On her website she proudly displays disturbing photos of naked and nearly naked children with chimps doing things like sticking their fingers in a crying baby’s mouth.  Read about how dangerous zoonosis is Big Cat Rescue

She claims to have owned 15 chimps and 4 orangutans, but says she only owns two chimps now named Kenya and Tanzee.  When she has been profiled in the news she refuses to say where her chimps and orangutans end up when she is through using them.  She will only say that they always go to a great sanctuary…but that isn’t likely. Great sanctuaries are accredited and as such they do not enable people like Gini Valbuena to continue to use, abuse and discard primates.  Before giving her a moment’s worth of your time, find out where these primates really end up, who is footing the bill for their care for the next 40 years and make sure you see them in person.

These people often use aliases, false addresses and other methods to hide their real identities when they spread their libelous claims because when their background becomes known, it is apparent that there is no truth to their assertions.  It is all a ruse, meant to distract from the real issue which is that exotic animals should not be kept as pets.

The letter that Carole Baskin wrote advising neighbors of exotic animal owners about a public workshop to address the proposal that neighbors be notified in the event of an escape is posted below:


The letter that Carole Baskin wrote advising neighbors of exotic animal owners about a public workshop to address the proposal that neighbors be notified in the event of an escape is posted below:

Dear Exotic Animal Neighbor,                                                        October 2, 2007

Did you even know that there are people living right next to you who own dangerous Class I and Class II wild animals?  It could be anything from a bobcat to a tiger.  While they may be caged  now, what happens in a hurricane?  The cobras and black mamba sort of neighbors are even more prone to escape.  We post a list of the big cat escapes, killings & maulings on our website.

Keeping wild animals in private collections is cruel to the animals and dangerous for you.

At a recent meeting of the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission they voted down a recommendation that neighbors be notified BEFORE someone moves in next to them with dangerous wild animals because the breeders, dealers and exotic pet owners were there but their neighbors weren’t.  They decided to offer two more meetings for neighbors to respond before voting on whether you should be notified when a dangerous wild animal escapes near you.

Of course, just like all of their other meetings, you won’t be notified by them of when and where.

We think you have a right to know.

DATE AND TIME: October 8, 2007, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
PLACE: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry Auditorium, 1911 SW 34th Street, Gainesville, Florida 32614.

DATE AND TIME: October 9, 2007, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
PLACE: The Ft. Lauderdale City Commission Chambers, 100 N. Andrews Avenue, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 33301-1016.

For more information on the meetings contact Captain Linda E. Harrison, FWC Division of Law Enforcement Big Cat RescueThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

To find out who in your neighborhood has these animals will cost you $50.00 (and a lot of frustration, because the FWC doesn’t want you to know) but you can try to get the list  from FL Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission Attn. Debbie Manderfield 2590 Executive Center Circle, Suite #200 Tallahassee, Fl 32301.  We purchased the list and found your address to be adjacent to one of the owners of Class I or Class II wildlife.  We thought you ought to know.

For the cats,

Carole Baskin, Founder

Curious? You can get closer

For $100, you can spend an hour with an chimp. The money goes toward the owner’s medical bills.


Published October 13, 2006

CLEARWATER – On Cheri Pierce’s list of things to do before she dies: hold a chimpanzee.

So Pierce, who lives in New York, traveled to a home in Clearwater last week for her very own private chimp encounter.

Noah, a 7-month-old chimp, pulled her blond hair, swatted her cheek and kissed her on the mouth. Gini Valbuena, Noah’s owner, hovered in the background.

Valbuena has owned and raised dozens of chimps and monkeys over the past four decades. She currently has three chimps at home. For 20 years, Valbuena cared for her menagerie with the money she made from running a photo studio out of her home.

But in August, she had gallbladder surgery and racked up $50,000 in medical bills – all without insurance.

Suddenly, she needs the chimps as much as they need her.

“I fully supported them for many years,” Valbuena wrote in an e-mail. “Now we work together doing something they love. … We’ve hit a bump in the road due to circumstances we could not foretell, but we’ll steer around it together.”

* * *

Her first monkey – a capuchin, the kind used by organ grinders – was a gift from her parents when she was 12 years old.

Valbuena can’t explain why, but she connected with the monkey.

More followed: gibbons, chimpanzees, orangutans. She owned some of them, but also raised many for other people. She also has had several big cats, including a lion. Valbuena also married, had four children and divorced. To this day, her daughter picks up her kids’ toys with her feet – like a chimp.

Back then, there were no laws against owning chimps or lions as pets. Today, by law, you can own them only if it involves a commercial use.

Valbuena took photos of regular folks but she also photographed the chimps in dresses and suits and sent them to greeting card companies.

A few years ago, her photo studio went under and she began offering chimp encounters for $100 an hour. She also takes her chimps to Naples for a few months each year for corporate events at a private preserve.

One of her chimps, 5-year-old Kenya, is over 40 pounds and is not allowed to participate in the encounters. Usually when her chimps reach sexual maturity, between ages 7 and 9, Valbuena sends them to an 82-acre farm she won’t name somewhere in Florida.

She continues to raise them from afar.

* * *

In Florida, you can swim with dolphins, manatees and stingrays, pay to have a tiger cub climb your leg and touch a legless lizard named Jimmy Dean.

About 55 people and companies in Florida are licensed to exhibit chimps, which cost anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000. They include Busch Gardens in Tampa and Walt Disney World in Orlando.

Valbuena, who doesn’t want to give her age but is in her 50s, is one of them. She’s locked in a continuous battle with animal rights activists, who disapprove of private ownership of wild animals or using them for amusement.

Valbuena says chimps love the interaction and she loves them like children. She does not sell her older chimps to research centers, and figures anything that keeps the species going is a good thing.

In August, after her gallbladder was removed, Valbuena began advertising her chimp encounters more. “It is very enriching for the chimps as they become bored easily and we are always looking for ways to entertain them,” she says.

But then she wonders. Her parents raised dozens of foster children.

“Sometimes I think about Mom and Dad raising all those foster babies all those years. All that time and attention, and I know there are all these children out there, and sometimes I feel guilty about giving it all to an animal, but these are just like my children. They are my family.”

* * *

Valbuena sits on a stool as 3-year-old Kira, dressed in a Bugs Bunny diaper, clings to her. Dr. Darryl Heard, a University of Florida professor and zoological medicine specialist, gives Kira anesthesia.

“It’s okay. Kisses. I know. Sorry,” Valbuena coos, tears forming in the corners of her eyes.

The chimps are her life. They eat five or six times a day and need round-the-clock care, like human infants. And now Kira needs a tooth extraction, at a cost of $500.

Valbuena knows of at least three chimps and four monkeys who have died under anesthesia.

Is she doing the right thing?

About 45 minutes later, the doctor calmly tells Valbuena the tooth came out, but there is something wrong with Kira’s breathing.

Valbuena’s chin quivers.

“There’s so much happiness and joy in them and when one is the sick, it’s the worst,” she cries.

Kira, however, is fine. Valbuena cradles the groggy chimp. “Hi, darling, Mommy’s so glad you’re better.”

Before heading back to Clearwater, Valbuena sits in her Dodge Caravan in the parking lot and slides Kira into a toddler-size pink one-piece with white eyelet trim along the back.

“Put your jammies on, darling,” Valbuena says. “Mommy’s so sorry you had to go through that.”

All is well.

* * *

Behind Valbuena’s home on a deck with two large cages, Pierce arrives to play with Kira. Valbuena makes the New York woman wash her hands with a disinfectant first.

Heard, the UF animal doctor, says chimps and people can give diseases to each other. Valbuena, however, says her animals have all their shots and have been checked for diseases. She’s more worried about people giving the animals diseases.

Pierce has gifts for the chimps, a xylophone and a pair of maracas. Kira quickly breaks the xylophone’s mallet in two and hides one of the maracas in the crook of her leg.

Then she leaps into Pierce’s arms and gives her a big hug.

“Oh, I love you,” says Pierce, her blue eyes fixed on the chimp’s craggy face. “Want to come home with me?”

Kira and Pierce kiss, then Kira does a somersault.

“I don’t know how you do it,” Pierce tells Valbuena. “I’d play with them all day.”

The chimp smiles, revealing a gap in her front teeth. Then she looks around for Valbuena, who’s standing off to the side, monitoring the encounter.

“Mommy’s not going anywhere,” Valbuena says.

[Last modified October 13, 2006, 06:30:58]

Chimps aren’t pets

The story of a woman who owns chimpanzees presented Gini Valbuena as an animal lover who is now “working together” with her chimpanzees to raise the $50,000 she racked up in medical bills because she didn’t have health insurance.

According to the article, Valbuena is promoting a $100-per-hour “chimp encounter” to individuals and groups. In the past, Valbuena also “raised monkeys for other people.” And when the chimps reach sexual maturity, “Valbuena sends them to an 82-acre farm she won’t name somewhere in Florida.” Is it no wonder animal rights activists have been in a “continuous battle” with Valbuena?

Anyone with common sense would be in conflict with her. Chimps should not be pets, and they don’t belong in diapers and children’s clothing.

Allowing people the freedom to “own” wildlife, from chimpanzees to python snakes, is unconscionable. And the Times’ choice to write a piece that touts exploitation as humanitarian is revolting.

As a former director of an animal welfare organization, I will tell you that every story like this negates what we try to do to mitigate the overpopulation of pets in this country. Shame on you.

Marylou Doehrman, Spring Hill


Shame, shame!

SHAME ON YOU for promoting Amazing Animal Actors (“Talking with the animals,” June 28, 2002).

These chimpanzee babies belong with their mothers, not with a chimp pimp renting them for $200 an hour. Chimpanzees have long childhoods, like us; in the wild they are not weaned until about 5 years old and stay near mother until about 9.

Chimpanzees are not furry little humans, and must not be treated like animated toys for human amusement. What will really happen to these youngsters when they are no longer cute and cuddly? Raised away from chimpanzee society, they have not learned to act like chimpanzees, and no reputable zoo will take such misfits.

Sadly, when chimpanzee children have grown too big and strong to be easily controlled, they are typically sold into biomedical research or to ramshackle roadside zoos, or are forced to breed a new generation of performers. Chimpanzees can live to be 60 years old, but entertainers are usually discarded before they reach 8.

Because chimpanzees are just like us in all the ways that matter, it is wrong to use them for amusement. Shame on your newspaper for giving free advertising to a chimp pimp.

Cyn Krueger
Stop Experimentation on & Exploitation of Chimpanzees (SEEC), Mercer Island, Wash.

‘Pay to play’ chimp program is the problem
Re: A chimp play date, story, July 5.

On behalf of the Chimpanzee Collaboratory, I would like to point out that your July 5 article on Gini Valbuena’s “pay to play” chimpanzee program in Clearwater omitted a few important details.

We are a group of scientists, public policy experts and attorneys that includes world-renowned primatologist and advocate Jane Goodall. We are dedicated to improving the lives of chimpanzees and other great apes. Programs such as Valbuena’s are exactly what we are trying to protect chimpanzees and other great apes from.

Captive chimpanzees in this type of situation are usually taken from their mothers at infancy and are denied the opportunity to grow up in a normal chimpanzee family. Later in life, they become too strong for a “hands-on” approach by even the most caring human guardian.

Chimpanzees are extremely social beings, but they become so humanized when raised in this manner that, once placed in a sanctuary with other chimpanzees, they do not know how to interact and they suffer horribly from social isolation. Those are the lucky ones. More often than not, chimpanzees used in entertainment end up being sold to biomedical laboratories or roadside zoos, where they may remain for decades.

Readers who wish to learn about the true nature of chimpanzees and their plight can contact the Center for Captive Chimpanzee Care in Boynton Beach ( This sanctuary, run by Chimpanzee Collaboratory member Dr. Carole Noon, is home to chimpanzees who previously lived in an Air Force laboratory. She also provides sanctuary for chimpanzees who were orphaned by their owners, who initially kept them as pets but were no longer able to take care of them.

Noon provides true sanctuary for these individuals and allows them to be who they are – chimpanzees, not props for our entertainment.

Liz Clancy Lyons,
The Chimpanzee Collaboratory, Washington, D.C.

Cruel advertisement

October 11th, 2006 by admin

Recently, a disturbing advertisement appeared on the popular online community, The ad featured a photo of a baby chimpanzee and offered “hands-on” encounters with chimpanzees for $100/hour. The ad promised, “Your encounter may include holding, feeding, playing with and photographing a young chimpanzee.”

The ad was placed by Gini Valbuena, who operates a business (Valbuena Chimps) out of her home in Clearwater. In addition to “Chimpanzee Encounters,” she also rents her chimpanzees for commercials, trade shows, etc. Unfortunately, this is not illegal. But it is certainly exploitive and teaches horrible messages about these endangered animals.

Posted in News |

4 Responses to “Help us get cruel advertisement offline”
on 12 Oct 2006 at 8:24 pm Lisa
When will this disgusting, inhumane and cruel practice be put under the spot light and eliminated. Cannot Gini Valbuena be charged with anything?

on 12 Oct 2006 at 9:02 pm Bridget Devaney
Gini needs to get a job that requires her to work instead of her poor animals that have no choice in the matter. I’d respect her if she was charging for “Gini Encounters” for $100 an hour.

on 18 Jan 2007 at 8:29 pm Sam Hunah
That’s just awful. And you know I have done some research on this Gini and it looks like she’s had about 20 chimps in her lifetime. Where did they all go?

on 18 Jan 2007 at 8:34 pm forthechimps
She’s a Godshame. She has dumped soooo many chimps over the years that she needs her own sanctuary just to keep her unwanted retirees.
How this woman is still allowed to treat her babies like this is just a huge question to me.
How does she think the baby chimps feel when they always see the older ones that grow up with gone one day…doesn’t she understand that they know what their future holds?
Doesn’t she care?
I hate her.