Foxie flips

October 1st, 2014 by Katelyn

Most people look forward to vacation. But as a caregiver I think I speak for most of us when I say vacation is a bit of a double edged sword. No matter how wonderful a holiday away can be, part of my heart is always with the chimpanzees, missing them and wondering what’s happening. And just as with any friend or loved one, it’s especially wonderful to greet them upon return.

When chimpanzees greet one another after a separation, their greetings can be strikingly similar to our own in posture, gesture, vocalization, and seemingly emotion. The chimpanzees understand much, if not all of what we say, but here at CSNW we use the chimps’ gestures and vocalizations with them as much as possible. And as part of their society and being good subordinate apes, we always try to greet the boss lady, Jamie, first. So on my first day back I walked into the chimp area to find Jamie and was surprised when she charged toward me, with her hair pilo-erect (standing on end). From her behavior (and well, Jamie being Jamie) I fully expected that she was going to skip the pleasantries and express her general displeasure about something with me and braced myself. But much to my surprise she stuck her lips out for a kiss!

And as if that wasn’t enough to make my day, Foxie was the next person to spot me and caregiver, Keri, was able to capture her greeting me on video. But while chimpanzee greetings are much like our own, this greeting bears no resemblance to anything I could do. It’s all Foxie. Which is, of course, why she is so endearing. And one of the best things about vacation. Coming home.

Foxie’s charm

September 30th, 2014 by Debbie

The big charmer at CSNW is no doubt Mr. B (I mean, just look at his face!) but Foxie has a charm of her own, and she’s able to use it to socially manipulate the chimp in charge, which is no small feat. Jamie is not easily persuaded by anyone. However, Foxie tries to keep the peace when she can, and if she sees Jamie getting upset about something, she will stomp playfully in front of Jamie to try and change the context. Get her mind off of being upset, and instead, get her to play. Foxie uses her playful charm as a sort of “cease fire” signal.

Foxie decided to use this special ability to her advantage. Sometimes when she and Jamie are playing, Jamie will take one of Foxie’s beloved trolls, which will occasionally make Foxie whimper. It’s all part of the game though, and soon enough they are wrestling and tumbling and Foxie does eventually get her troll back. (Read more about that dynamic here). She seemed to be treating the coconut in this situation as one of those trolls. First she whimpers as if to say “please, I’d really like this coconut” and when that doesn’t work, she starts to play with Jamie.

In the end, Jamie held on to the coconut and was able to crack it open using a plastic chopstick and sheer force on the stairs. However, when it broke into a bunch of pieces, Foxie was able to grab a big chunk and Jamie had no problem with her taking her piece.

Starting the day out right

September 29th, 2014 by Keri

Burrito was the first chimpanzee I saw this morning. He was sitting in the last front room looking out the window with the morning light shining on his face. It was such a peaceful moment. And then we made eye contact; and from that moment on, he was ready to go. And by go, I mean ready to play. He took the little toy wooden block he had in his hand and put it in his mouth. Then he got up from the bench, gave a good foot stomp and ran out to the Greenhouse.

Who could resist an invitation to play a game of chase like that? So, I ran out to the human area next to the greenhouse and gave a good foot stomp. He ran back and forth along the platform, continuing to foot stomp along the way. As soon as I would catch up to him, he would quickly change direction and run the other way. In between running back and forth, he did a couple of play bows before running off again. We continued this for a few minutes before he sat down and put his back against the wire fencing, for me to give him a few knuckle rubs.

It’s moments like these that I find it so hard to imagine how he endured year after year, decade after decade in the tiny little cages he (and the other chimpanzees) lived in. Finally, he is able to wake up in the morning and start the day off with a good play session. To be able to run and play with the other chimpanzees and caregivers is what sanctuary is about.

Caregiver Katelyn was able to capture a few photos of him shortly after our play session. By that time he had changed his toy of choice to a hard plastic fish.



Point A to Point B

September 28th, 2014 by Keri

What is the quickest way to get from point A to point B?


Well, for Missy chimpanzee, that means taking the tight rope walk across the fire hose railing to get to the platform on top of the climbing structure.



Once she made it to the top platform, she took a moment to look out over the valley.


In the first picture, Annie and Foxie were also on the climbing structure. If you look close enough, you can see the blue hair of Foxie’s troll doll lying on Foxie’s back.

Annie (bottom left), Foxie (top left), Missy (far right).

Negra Light and Bonus Play Video!

September 27th, 2014 by Diana

*Note – due to feedback on Facebook this post is basically a two-for-one. Photos AND video of Negra on the hill AND a bonus treat -a video of Jamie and Foxie playing. Just a fraction of the great things that happened at the sanctuary today.

Please let me know which was your favorite part of this post in the comments below and on our Facebook page, and share your favorite photo and video on your own Facebook, Twitter, Ello (are you on that?), etc. page or email a link to the blog to your friends. Spread the chimps’ joy!

We’ve had rain for the last few days, which was a nice change. Today, however, was back to sun, but with a definite autumn feel. There’s that bit of crispness in the air and the ambient light seems to have suddenly changed overnight with the sun lower instead of directly overhead. I might just start referring to this light as “Negra light” because it made for some beautiful photos of the Queen this morning.

The change back to sunshine prompted us to set up a breakfast forage on the hill. Negra doesn’t always join foraging on the 2-acres, but I made sure to make a pathway of lettuce to encourage her to come out. To our surprise, Negra not only ventured onto Young’s Hill, but spent quite a bit of time foraging, and was the last one back in. Not only that, but she demanded that Debbie serve her two cups of smoothie, which she often is not interested in – perhaps the workout of foraging on the hill made her a bit more hungry.

In any case, please enjoy the (many) “Negra light” photos and the video below, don’t forget to watch the Foxie and Jamie wrestling video at the end of the post and let me know what your favorite part of today’s post was (one of the videos, a particular photo, the eclectic content…?).

Thanks for reading and learning more about the family at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest! Your support and donations make all the difference!


Negra eating lettuce

Negra eating lettuce

Negra eating lettuce

Negra taking in the view

Negra dismounting

Negra walking back

Negra changing her mind

Negra climbing up

Negra climbing on platform

Negra sitting on platform


“Negra Light”!

Negra Light


And here’s the bonus video, which doesn’t need much explanation. What a happy pair!


September 26th, 2014 by J.B.

Yesterday, during the party, Negra and Jody found themselves eating from the same pinata.


Negra, being dominant to Jody, decides that she’d rather not share. As Negra pulls the pinata away from Jody, Jody gets upset and begins to just slightly bare her teeth out of fear. Negra then displays a facial expression known as a full open grin. As you can see, her upper and lower lips are drawn all the way back, exposing all of her large and powerful teeth. This is a sign of fear or excitement, and is often seen when social conflict breaks out.


Jody responds with a full closed grin. Her lips are drawn back like Negra’s, but her jaw is closed. She is upset that Negra has pulled rank, so she goes to Burrito and Foxie for reassurance.


After being reassured by Burrito and receiving a kiss and a hug from Foxie, Jody returns to Negra, who offers her an extended arm in reconciliation. Jody accepts.


And the Queen gets the pinata.


As it should be.


This is all very similar to the conflict we showed a couple of weeks ago, but in this case all of the behavior was ritualized and no one was harmed in the process. As aggressive as they may be, chimpanzees are also very good at negotiating peaceful settlements to their disagreements. Part of this is due to their dominance hierarchies, which can help predetermine the outcome of smaller skirmishes without the need for fighting.

We mentioned before on this blog how difficult it can be to describe the dominance hierarchy at CSNW. One reason is that these seven chimpanzees had little social experience before coming to the sanctuary. They had to start figuring out how to be chimpanzees when they were already well into adulthood, with no role models to emulate and no culture to absorb – just seven misfits trying to figure things out as they went along.

But another explanation is that the majority of the Cle Elum Seven are female, and in the wild, the hierarchy amongst females is often less linear than it is for males. In some communities, the females seem to be ranked in broad groups rather than by the individual.

I would say that is true for the Cle Elum Seven. It’s clear that Jamie, Negra, Jody, and Burrito are dominant individuals, but among them, it’s not always clear how they are ranked. The hierarchy is complex, fluid, and context-dependent. For example, Burrito’s dominance displays are respected and tolerated by all of the females, but Jamie can steal his lunch with impunity. Jamie gets upset when Jody gets a hold of prized food, but she is not always successful in her attempts to steal it away. Negra always submits to Burrito, but she steals from Jamie and Jody. Honestly, it can get confusing.

Nevertheless, we refer to Jamie as the alpha of the group because she regularly fights for dominance and usually gets her way. Negra, on the other hand, seems to earn respect without trying.

All she wants is her night bags, a quiet nap, and occasionally, someone else’s pinata.

Summer Lovin’

September 25th, 2014 by Elizabeth

Participants in our summer online auction were invited to donate toward an epic end-of-summer party for the chimpanzees, and they stepped up in a big way. Despite today’s not so summery weather here in Cle Elum, we threw the summer party to end all summer parties.


Thanks so much to everyone who contributed toward today’s party, and to everyone who helps make the chimps’ lives as happy as possible!

Tool bench

September 24th, 2014 by Debbie

Last summer we got this pretty awesome workbench which the chimpanzees loved (and loved to death!) so we added the same workbench to our Amazon wishlist again recently. Jamie and Annie both spent a fair amount of time with it, but Annie was able to stay out of sight from the paparazzi :) But we did get a few photos of Jamie playing with the tools.

First she knocked the bench on its side and twisted the vice around:


And then she used the wrench as a screwdriver:


Missy and Negra Wrestle

September 23rd, 2014 by Debbie

Missy really brings out Negra’s playful side. She slows things down a little when she plays with Negra in comparison to Annie or Foxie who are more active than the Queen, so this play session is a little different than what you’re used to seeing when we post video of the chimps wrestling. Still, even without the tumbling and running, Negra is able to throw in a (playful) punch and a few bites, too. :)


September 22nd, 2014 by Keri

I’ve recently been asked about how we receive kisses from the chimpanzees. The simple answer is that the chimpanzees extend their lips through the wire caging toward us and we put the back of our hand up towards their lips. But, words can only describe so much; pictures actually show it. So, today I tried to capture that through photos, but none of the chimps offered kisses to me (perhaps because I had the camera in hand?). So, I had to resort to the next best way of showing how the chimpanzees extend their prehensile lips towards us to give us a kiss. Meal time is the perfect opportunity to capture the chimpanzees extending their lips through the wire caging.

In the following photos, volunteer caregiver Becca served breakfast to the chimps this morning. On the menu were red pears and oranges, along with a watermelon, banana and protein powder smoothie. Each of the chimpanzees are also given fiber pills and vitamins every morning. You will notice in the following pictures that Becca’s fingers never penetrate the caging. For safety reasons, we consider the caging to be a barrier between our space and that of the chimpanzees, therefore we never stick our fingers into the enclosures.

Annie takes her fiber pill at breakfast.

Annie getting her share of the breakfast smoothie.

Burrito uses his lips to slurp his smoothie.

Jamie uses her lips to take her fiber pill.


Jody’s lips are pretty impressive. She seems to have the furthest “reach” with them. What do you think?

Jody taking her vitamins.