Jamie and Foxie show us how it’s done.
Yesterday, Jamie received a package in the mail with new cowgirl boots from our long time supporters and friends, Don and Karen Young (for whom Young’s Hill was named thanks to their generous contribution to making it possible). When we arrived at the sanctuary this morning, Jamie was watching us from the greenhouse and as soon as we got out of our cars she immediately gestured that she was ready for a walk with her new boots. I think that’s something we can all relate to.
A wonderful article, featuring the chimpanzees, was posted today on One Green Planet speaking to the many ways in which chimpanzees and humans are alike. And today at the sanctuary was another simple example of that. We are getting some much needed rain to the area and the chimpanzees and humans alike are kicking up their heels a bit more with the cooler temperatures. And although Jamie was ready and waiting for an early morning walk, due to intermittent thunder showers, we had to wait for the voltage on the electric fencing surrounding the chimpanzees’ outdoor area to come up before we could give the chimps access to the hill. So just as we humans do when we are waiting for stormy weather to pass, Jamie reluctantly made a nest, holding fast to her new boots, and waited it out.
Finally, after lunch the voltage on the fence was high enough to give them access to Young’s Hill. Jamie immediately had J.B. put on some boots and they set off for a perimeter walk. While Jamie and J.B. were busy walking, everyone else (well, except Negra who chose to take an after lunch nap) raced out onto the hill to enjoy the brief break in weather.
Missy, being Missy, made several laps up and down, and back and forth, only stopping to occasionally check out the view:
But it wouldn’t be long before she was off to race across the hill, or chase her friend, Annie, again:
Jody, marched out onto the hill with purpose, clearly on a mission. A mission to forage for a rather large piece of bamboo to bring back to enjoy in the comfort of her nest before the rain began again:
Even Foxie felt adventurous and explored the platforms on her own. Well, not exactly on her own as she had Dora with her, of course.
While these moments captured seemingly simple joys for the chimpanzees that we as humans can relate to, there is no denying the countless ways in which chimpanzees experience the world and their lives just as we do. For me, I just consider us to be different cultures who still have distinctly similar thoughts, emotions, and desires. Who still want the same things in life. Just like all beings we share this planet with.
A story appeared recently in the Daily Mail and Good Morning America showing images and video of two young chimpanzees, Vali and Sugriva, going to the theater with their “handlers” and watching the film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The irony is that the two young chimpanzees were exploited for this publicity stunt, and brought into a theater to watch a movie that purposefully avoided using live ape actors… (Read more on Care2)
For more on the training facility Vali and Sugriva live at, visit our trainer page on Eyes on Apes.
Thank you to Care2 for posting our op-ed on this issue! Please share the article with your friends and get the word out that chimpanzees do not belong on either side of the theater screen.
As a caregiver at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest one of our priorities is trying to come up with entertainment, enrichment, and various engaging activities for the chimpanzees’ daily lives. We are keen to provide them with as much choice and autonomy in captivity as we can.
For all our effort towards this end, it is always a gift to be reminded that as much as the chimpanzees might appreciate it, they also do not rely solely on it for their happiness and well-being. The chimpanzees are as adept at enriching them-selves (and each other) as we are at enrichment and I wouldn’t have it any other way! It is a privilege to care for these seven chimpanzees but I believe they know far better than I what would be the best way for them to spend their time. Here is just a taste of how they choose to live today.
Today’s day of sanctuary was sponsored by Patrick and Carrie Hardie in honor of Ren’s 19th birthday! Patrick and Carrie sent the following lovely message:
“We are long time supporters of CSNW and couldn’t think of a better way to honor our nephew’s 19th birthday than supporting our favorite seven primates.”
Patrick and Carrie, we are all touched that you would include the chimpanzees in your wish to celebrate Ren’s special day. Thank you so much for thinking of them! Ren, from all of the primates here at CSNW, Happy Birthday!! We hope you’re having a great day!
**Last week I experienced some technical difficulties trying to post my blog. If you are on Facebook you will already have had the opportunity to watch the video but for those of you who aren’t, here is last week’s blog post, finally!! Please enjoy and check back later for today’s real blog post.**
Chimpanzees are highly social creatures. They rely on a social hierarchy and daily networking as part of the glue that keeps their society functioning. But, just like humans, the chimpanzees benefit from some quality time alone as well. With the temperature in the playroom providing a slight relief from a recent humid heat wave, the chimpanzees took advantage of the opportunity for time to cool off and recharge their social batteries.
Negra doesn’t spend as much time outside on Young’s Hill as the other chimpanzees. She seems to feel safer and more comfortable inside. And when she does go out, she doesn’t venture far. So we’re always excited to see Negra explore new territory on the hill.
This morning we set up a breakfast forage outside, and included some lettuce (Negra’s favorite). Negra couldn’t resist, and she joined the rest of the group as they went out to forage for breakfast. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, she spotted some lettuce on top of a climbing structure. Negra’s not much of a climber, and most of the climbing structures on Young’s Hill have remained unexplored by her. This morning’s lettuce, though, was incentive enough to brave the unknown.
First off—today is the Doggie and Troll Olympics! The games are currently underway and although I wish I could be there to enjoy all the fun, Katelyn, myself, and volunteers Connie and Annie are here with the chimps having fun of our own. (If you weren’t able to join the games today, consider making a donation in Foxie’s honor—the troll games, after all, are about Foxie’s love of troll dolls and an early celebration of her August 8th birthday!)
We’re always trying to come up with interesting enrichment themes for the chimps. The other day I noticed how many paper shopping bags we had collected and thought it would be fun to fill them with enrichment and seal them closed so the chimps would have to open them like presents.
Jamie, of course, loved that project—but to my surprise, Burrito found paper bag day to be a big hit! He used them to display with, which is very helpful if you’re a male chimpanzee. And then he methodically went through one bag, but by the time I grabbed the camera, he had emptied it and was using it as a pillow. Who knew paper shopping bags could have so many uses!
We’ve often described Jamie as a complicated chimpanzee. She seems to identify more with the humans than with being a chimpanzee, but at the same time, she’s very socially manipulative and runs the show around here. As the boss, there’s no doubt she always has a lot on her mind. Most of the time, Jamie is pretty serious about things, even when she’s playing with the humans. She will ask to groom our shoes or wrists, play chase, or walk around the hill—and we will usually get a head nod from her as acknowledgement that she’s happy about that moment, but rarely does she laugh when playing with humans. Foxie, however, seems to be the one individual who can really get Jamie to be silly. The other chimpanzees are occasionally able to get Jamie’s silly side out, but not as much as Foxie.
The other day I posted the first part of this video on our Instagram account—if you’re not following us there, you should be! Today I got Foxie and Jamie playing again and laughing pretty hard. It wasn’t long before Jamie caught me, the paparazzi, and shifted her attention away. She looked toward my boot so I played a little tickle game. You’ll be able to see her briefly head nod, but not laugh the way she does when she’s wrestling with Foxie.
I’ve always found it interesting that though Jamie is very human-oriented, she seems to really only let her guard down when playing with other chimpanzees. Jamie is certainly an interesting and complicated chimpanzee, but we love her all the more for it.
For whatever reason, the chimpanzee caregiver field is largely dominated by women. All of the staff here at CSNW at one point or another were students, interns, and/or staff at the former Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute, where we all learned the ropes of chimpanzee husbandry. In my tenure there, I would estimate it was about a 5:1 ratio of women to men!
At CSNW, we’ve had a handful of men volunteer in the chimp house, and several more that have helped in other ways—groundskeeping and outdoor projects, fundraising, event help, etc. But up until recently, the only men that have been direct caregivers are co-director J.B. and our founder, Keith.
Well, Joel broke a new record in our sixth year of sanctuary and became the very first male volunteer caregiver. Though all the chimpanzees enjoy new friendships, Burrito is especially excited. As you can imagine, living with a group of girls and being taken care of by a group of girls makes guy time all the more valuable!
Don’t worry—J.B. and Keith are still Burrito’s pals, as well as all his female caregivers, too! One of the things we emphasize during our caregiver training is the importance of building a strong relationship based on trust, and we divide our time between all the chimpanzees to avoid fostering any “favorites.” But, just like humans, some personalities click differently and that is totally fine. Burrito seems to really click with his new buddy, which makes all the primates here pretty happy.