BY BILL WOLCOTT
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal —
Charlie the Karate Chimp, a 27-year-old chimpanzee from Wilson died on Monday.
Charlie The Chimp was a worldwide celebrity and Presti said he has received over 3,500 emails of condolence since the word of his death spread. Messages came from Japan, the United Kingdom and Israel, according to Presti, who said he plans to answer all correspondence.
"He was loved by a lot of people around this world," Presti said.
Charlie, who was born in 1985, was adopted by Presti in 1987 when the chimp was 17 months old. Presti provides an store front animal sanctuary in a Niagara Falls center-city neighborhood .
Charlie was a star, appearing in movies and television shows until he retired 20 years ago. The chimp was a favorite of action hero Chuck Norris and featured in a National Geographic television documentary and the Animal Planet. Charlie came out of retirement for special community events.
Like many primates in captivity, Charlie developed a heart ailment and had an enlarged heart. Presti devoted his time to the animal who grew to be about 200 pounds.
Charlie was cremated in Hamburg on Wednesday.
Presti's priority now is taking care of Kiko, Charlie's companion of 22 years. Kiko is 26.
His other priority is working towards building a primate sanctuary in on Wilson-Youngstown Road in Wilson.
The plan was approved in June, put the project on hold due to the illness of Charlie. There are still issues to resolve before Presti can begin building the home for primates.
"We're in the early stages," Presti said. "We have to get our monkeys in a row and start going forward."
Because of confusion concerning a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR), a Wilson Zoning Board approval to build a sanctuary was delayed.
Presti has built a house in Wilson and the facility is planned next to the house. There has been considerable concern among neighbors, but the general community has supported the sanctuary and several interns from Niagara County Community College Animal Management Program came to show support for Presti last summer at the board meeting.
The Niagara County Legislature also approved the sanctuary.
There are currently 30 monkeys in the Livingston Street sanctuary and Presti is considering maintaining the building for the County Rescue Team.
Presti is counting on some pro bono work for proposed animal sancturary, with heavy equipment, manpower and materials donated.