July 21st, 2017 by J.B.

The Cle Elum Seven fight a lot. You probably don’t get that sense from reading this blog. It’s not a conscious decision of ours to downplay their aggressiveness, but I do worry sometimes that our inclination to share mostly cute, funny, and uplifting stories leads us to unintentionally misrepresent the nature of chimpanzees.


Don’t get me wrong – relative to all the other things they do, like eating, resting, playing, and so on, fighting is relatively infrequent. Chimpanzees are by and large peaceful and cooperative. But for most groups, all that peace and cooperation is punctuated on a fairly regular basis by terrifying bouts of screaming, hitting, clawing, and biting.

This morning, Jamie got upset when she missed an opportunity to steal food at breakfast. Jamie has a hair trigger temper – if she thinks she wasn’t given the deference she deserves, she reacts by screaming bloody murder. Her screaming gets the whole group upset and before long Burrito begins to display. With Jamie screaming and Burrito flying around like a Tasmanian devil, it’s only a matter of time before contact is made and a fight begins – sometimes between two chimps that had nothing to do with the cause of the disorder in the first place.

Most fights end without injury. In fact, this fight at breakfast ended quickly without incident, and the chimps returned to their meal. But Jamie held a grudge. She was probably stewing inside all morning. In fact, I know she was, because she took it out on me.

Captive chimps love to redirect their aggression (one of the many unflattering traits we share). Why pick a fight with another chimp, who could bite you back, when you could direct your aggression toward a human? Caregivers are at times the chimps’ unwitting therapists, allowing them to release pent-up frustrations in a safe space. Thus the high-velocity feces that grazed my head as I let the chimps onto Young’s Hill this morning. That was just Jamie’s way of coping, as were the threat barks directed at us by Negra, Missy, and even Annie (!) throughout the morning.

But hurling feces wasn’t enough for Jamie. As we were cleaning the playroom, we saw her walk into the greenhouse with a full closed grin (a misleading term for a facial expression that includes baring both the top and bottom teeth in fear or aggression) to round up other chimps. When her backup arrived, she ran into the front rooms to confront Burrito. Burrito suddenly found himself trapped on a bench where he had been resting, surrounded by five of his family members all lunging and swinging at him. Burrito had to decide….should he fight back and risk escalating the situation while greatly outnumbered, or try to escape? He chose the latter and managed to get away with only a small bite to his foot. Jamie had made her point. He was chastened.

Fights are unsettling to the whole group because social instability is a threat to everyone. Following a fight, the chimps groom intensely to repair and restore relationships.

Burrito’s go-to grooming buddy is Foxie. Even when she is his antagonist in the fight, he still goes to her for comfort. This afternoon, they groomed on the greenhouse deck for at least 30 minutes.

Foxie & Burrito:

This kind of grooming has nothing to do with hygiene. It’s all about closeness and physical connection.


Eventually, Missy approached and Burrito turned to groom her as well.

But Foxie wasn’t done with Burrito, and she cajoled him into returning with a smile, a poke, some head nods, and a series of breathy pants.

Some scientists think that captive chimpanzees have a greater propensity to reconcile after fights than their wild counterparts do because of the nature of captivity – in captivity, you can’t run away from your problems. If someone beats you up, you are probably going to have to sit with them at lunch an hour later. So your best bet is to take out some of your frustration in whichever way floats your boat – charging through the playroom, smashing a toy into a million pieces, spitting on your caregivers, or initiating a CODE BROWN on an innocent and unsuspecting Co-Director.

And with that out of the way, get to work making up with your family.



In memory of Kevin Clark

July 21st, 2017 by Katelyn

Today was sponsored by long-time friend of the chimpanzees, Shelley Winfrey, in memory of her brother, Kevin Clark. Shelley has helped us to care for the chimps in so many ways over the years and is sharing this special day with them, sending along this note: “For my brother, who passed away…he would have loved the chimps!”

Shelley, thank you so much for being Burrito’s Pal, for all the love and support you send him and his family, and for including them as part of your family. Our thoughts are with you today and we hope your thoughts of Kevin are full of joy and comfort. We are so touched that you would share his memory with us all through adding to the lives of the chimps.

Cuties, Burrito and Jamie:

When the Trolls Align

July 20th, 2017 by Kelsi

Our amazing volunteers created this great display of trolls for the chimps! Some could find this terrifying, but others (like Foxie) find it completely delightful! When Foxie saw this display of dolls, she was beyond excited! Which would she choose first? Foxie was so thrilled that throughout the day I have found her playing alone with her trolls or getting the staff caregivers into a big game of troll toss and chase!


A beautiful line of trolls:

Foxie holding on to the pink doll in one hand and the orange with her foot:

Foxie spotted again with her troll:

The aftermath of deciding which troll to play with first:

Foxie staying hydrated after a big game of chase:

Afternoon Activities

July 19th, 2017 by Kelsi

We had a busy day at the Sanctuary! Today was full of walks on the hill, grooming, and lounging.

Jamie took quite a few walks on the hill (with Burrito lagging behind) while staff and volunteers accompanied her:

After Jamie’s walks staff caregiver Anna and I took turns grooming the boss:

Foxie – Even her troll needed a nap this afternoon. Can you spot her tiny doll?


An odd relationship

July 18th, 2017 by Anna

We’ve seen Foxie put her dolls in precarious places, just so she could rescue them. We’ve also seen her hug and groom them lovingly. There are moments in the day when she throws them up and catches them, or hits them with tools. There are also moments like this..

Moments with Jamie

July 17th, 2017 by Katelyn

Jamie enjoyed a particularly relaxing moment this afternoon as she had Jake, one of the graduate students who is currently in training to be a volunteer caregiver, groom her back. She’s training him very well:

I’d like to share a story about Jamie from today that although we couldn’t get photos of, is too wonderful not to include you in. After lunch Jamie asked for her favorite pair of boots and began building a nest with them, which is pretty typical. When Kelsi and I walked down the human hallway of the chimp house awhile later we found her sound asleep and snuggled up with an empty boot box we’d given the chimps for enrichment. When Jamie saw us (because there’s no sneaking up on a chimpanzee), she immediately got excited and asked to go on a walk. Kelsi had put on another boot when suddenly Jamie grabbed the boot box and opened it up. Much to our surprise, she had placed her beloved pair of black boots inside just as if they were a new pair! Maybe you had to be there, but Kelsi and I looked at each other in amazement. It was incredibly endearing. Jamie promptly took the boots, ran upstairs to the loft area and tossed them over the top of the caging so that Kelsi could put them on for a walk and off they went. No matter how long we work with the chimps, they continue to amaze us every day.



Sundaze at the Sanctuary

July 16th, 2017 by Kelsi

Sundays are all about relaxation. At the Sanctuary, we want to make sure our residents feel comfortable, and trust me, today is all about comfort and relaxation. Check it out:

Burrito had another fun game with his scooter, but unfortunately, a wheel came off. Luckily, Burrito was completely content with his 3 wheeled scooter and now just gets to bring the wheel everywhere with him:

A few days ago J.B. shared some pictures of Annie wearing a waistband and today she is still rocking it! Annie is having a blast today foraging on the hill and grooming with friends, all while sporting the waistband:

Even the boss decided to take a break and relax on a platform in the front rooms. It is the perfect area to lay around and relax while still staying alert:



It’s Beets!

July 15th, 2017 by Diana

The lunch forage on the hill today included quite a variety of vegetables, but the beets were a favorite. Bonus: they are easy to carry back to the greenhouse to enjoy.

Eating beets temporarily stains the chimps’ white freckles a lovely shade of pink, and cleaning up the day after a beet feast is always more colorful.










Negra (with Missy in the background)


If you are wondering about the troll doll by Negra’s feet in the photo above, she actually took a shine to it today. It’s Foxie who loves the troll dolls, but once in a while Negra decides to carry one around!



Be different

July 14th, 2017 by J.B.

Annie found a way to stand out from the crowd today…


For Deborah and her Dad

July 14th, 2017 by Katelyn

Today’s day of sanctuary was sponsored by Deborah Bishop who shares this lovely message about today:

“For my birthday and in honour of my dear Dad who imparted a profound love of the natural world and all the creatures great and small with whom we share it. With gratitude to all of you who give your time, energy and commitment to this amazing sanctuary.” 

Deborah, this is such a beautiful sponsorship and we are so happy to celebrate your birthday and your Dad with you! What a wonderful gift your Dad gave you to carry with you throughout life. He will be in our thoughts today. Thank you so much for including the chimpanzees in your special day and for helping to ensure their lives are full of all the good things. All of us wish you the happiest of birthdays!!

Annie and Foxie:

Annie and Missy:

Burrito and Jody:


Jamie and Missy: