I went out to the greenhouse this afternoon to snap a few photos of the chimpanzees—most of whom were lounging in hard-to-see spots, so I was out of luck. However, front and center was Mr. Burrito, looking handsome as ever.
Annie was not brimming with confidence when she arrived at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest. (This is an understatement.) She had a couple of things working against her: her position at the very bottom of the social hierarchy, and decades of history in research labs during which she lived in fear and frequent pain. She had every reason to believe that the world was not kind.
During her early days at the sanctuary, Annie had regular anxiety attacks. If she felt threatened by another chimpanzee, or sometimes for no discernible reason at all, she would throw herself on the ground while screaming and flailing. She was glued to her best friend Missy’s side, and would become noticeably agitated if they were separated. At the sanctuary she was given space to roam, other chimps to play with, nourishing food, and caregivers who adore her. But she was not at ease.
Fast forward almost seven years, and Annie is a different person.
She has shed her old demons and has been hard at work building a whole new Annie. This new Annie is filled with peace and joy and wonder. She plays with friends and stands up for herself during family disagreements and claps her feet and makes bird noises and is not afraid of solitude.
This new Annie greets the world with a glint in her eye.
Today’s day of sanctuary was sponsored by Denise Hathaway-Larsen in honor of her and her brother, Denis’, birthday. Denise shared this touching message about today:
“This is my and my twin brother’s 59th birthday. My twin brother passed away in a motorcycle accident in 2007. My family had the honor of visiting CSNW last summer. We have followed the chimpanzees there for several years and adore them AND their caregivers.”
Denise, it means so much that you would think of giving the chimpanzees a special day as a way to celebrate your and Denis’ lives. We are so sorry for your loss and hope you find much comfort and joy in remembering your brother and your lives together today. Happy Birthday from all of us here at CSNW!
Good friends, Burrito and Foxie:
As part of the chimpanzees’ enrichment theme for the day, they have been enjoying forages all day! In the wild, chimpanzees spend most of their waking hours foraging for food, often traveling many miles. We try to offer forages as often as we can not only to encourage their natural foraging behavior, but to give them something exciting and interesting to do.
It’s probably the warmest day of the year here so far and we were able to put breakfast and lunch forages on Young’s Hill. What’s also great about Young’s Hill forages is that it keeps the chimpanzees engaged for much of the day as they frequently venture out throughout the day to see if they missed anything.
Dinner forage was set up in the playroom which included sweet potatoes, roasted squash, tomatoes, the best smelling yellow roses from Diana and J.B’s yard, and, the piece de resistance? The chimps’ friend and supporter, Pat C., gifted them with whole coconuts today! As we were setting the forage up I think it was the “food squeaking heard ’round the world.” We broke up a few to make sure everyone would find some and then hid a couple of whole ones as special treats for a couple people to find. Well, let’s be serious, for Jamie to find, and hopefully someone else.
As predicted, Jamie found the first whole coconut and made sure to hang onto it while foraging for everything else:
Thank goodness for those opposable toes:
Foxie found a cup of tomato juice and seemed to enjoy licking spilled coconut milk off the floor:
Negra enjoying her coconut:
Everyone got plenty of coconut pieces, but we couldn’t see who found the other whole coconut. Then we heard someone cracking it on the floor and found Missy looking pretty pleased:
Thanks so much to Pat C. for bringing the chimpanzees such a special treat! Jamie carried her coconut around in a box with her until she finished all the other forage options she wanted. The chimp house is closed up for the evening and most of the chimps are making their nests for the night as they snack on the last bits of the forage. As I type this, I’m smiling because I can hear Jamie finally trying to break that coconut open. Crack…crack…crack…
Okay, so, not quite a jungle—but the grass is very tall on Young’s Hill and the weeds are at the perfect stage for chimp snacking! Everyone has been on the hill a lot today, Negra was even out there on her own for awhile!
Even after nearly seven years in sanctuary, we still see the chimpanzees growing and truly coming into their own. I find that no matter how many times we see the chimps on the hill, it will never, ever get old. It’s still so awesome to see them outside, in their element foraging for tasty snacks, and sometimes even venturing to a point where we can’t see them!
It’s moments like those that make us reflect on how incredible sanctuary is and how much you all have really changed the lives of the Cle Elum Seven. Young’s Hill would not have been possible without generous gifts from supporters such as yourselves, and the exciting new projects we have in mind would never be able to get off the ground if it weren’t for our remarkable CSNW family. Words could really never say how much your support means to us, or to the chimpanzees, but maybe a few pictures can.
Jody in the grass jungle:
Negra, all on her own munching on some grass and weeds:
We are gearing up for our HOOT! gala in a couple weeks—the biggest fundraiser of the year, where folks can help sustain the sanctuary and support more indescribable moments like Jody getting lost in the grass jungle, and Negra hanging out on the hill all on her own for some delicious dandelion greens.
This year, I have been helping get all the auction items organized and ready for the big night. I’m astounded by all the wonderful items that have been donated! We have a preview site available, so check that out and decide now what you plan to bid on!
Join us May 30th for a fun night and learn more about the last seven years of moments!
Today after cleaning the playroom, we put a small drop of non-toxic dish soap in the pool and filled it up with water. The chimpanzees all enjoy soapy water. Jamie sometimes uses it to scrub the floor, while others like to take big mouthfuls of it. They seem to like the sensation of the foamy bubbles in their mouths. There’s no denying it – bubbles are just fun.
Today has been steamy and warm, dark skies threatening to rain in between bursts of hot sun, but not a drop has fallen. Life is full and lush this time of year. It feels as though you could see things grow if you watched close enough. The air is heavily scented with wildflowers and woven with the trilling of birds, the hum of honeybees, and the slow whine of grasshoppers.
Our bluebird pair, despite being gifted with some lovely bluebird houses made by Daniel Anderman and kindly donated to the sanctuary by he and his family, have seemingly chosen to nest on Young’s Hill. Not the wisest choice, but so far they’ve gone undisturbed by the chimpanzees:
While all this was happening outside, this was happening inside: Foxie napping.
When Foxie is happy and content she rubs her toes together. I wonder what she was dreaming about?
It must have been an adventure, because minutes after these photos were taken, Foxie suddenly woke up, swung through the greenhouse with her hair standing on end (pilo erect), Dora the Explorer in hand, and marched with purpose toward Young’s Hill. Her behavior was the same she exhibits when she wants her caregivers to chase her, but what happened next? Everyone, even Jamie, suddenly fell in line behind this mighty little lady with a purpose, as she led them out onto Young’s Hill.
Foxie and Dora lead the way with Jamie, Jody, and Burrito following:
Foxie, Jamie and Jody:
Annie and Missy bringing up the rear (Negra was fast asleep in her nest for this adventure):
Everyone began to disappear into the tall, lush grass as they foraged for wild plants. Occasionally, I caught glimpses of them in between the structures and bamboo.
Jamie and Foxie:
Who knows what, if anything, Foxie may have been dreaming about before leading the way onto the hill, but it brings to mind the words of Thoreau, “Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.”
After breakfast Jamie set out onto Young’s Hill with purpose in her step.
We watched as she very methodically selected a bamboo shoot and headed back into the greenhouse.
As it turns out, she had unsuccessfully attempted to get some peanuts outside the caging using a toy rake. The handle was just slightly too big to reach out to the peanuts.
The bamboo stick was a little too cumbersome, so Jamie needed to tweak it a bit. First she broke it in half, and then she removed some of the branches.
Now that she designed the perfect tool, she could reach the peanuts!
Chimpanzees seem to have a pretty good sense of time. Even if we haven’t started preparing dinner yet, the chimps at CSNW begin to gather near the window to the kitchen around 4 o’clock. They want to see what’s on the menu and remind us to hurry things along. But every once and a while, it remains ghostly quiet as dinner time nears – no one blowing raspberries at us, banging on the caging, clapping their hands, or stomping their feet. When this happens, it usually means one thing: They’ve started on dinner without us.
Chimps in captivity rely on humans for so much. Those who were wild caught, like Negra and Annie, were torn from their families, deprived of their native cultures, and forced into complete dependence on humans. And in some ways, they were the lucky ones, because those born into captivity never even got to experience a moment of independence in their lives. So when they learn to take back a tiny bit of autonomy, as they do when they choose when and what they’d like to eat, it is cause for celebration. And with two acres and a greenhouse full of bamboo and native plants, the chimps are able to make these choices every day.
Eating plants is good for their health, too. Chimps in the wild eat large quantities of rough fiber in the form of shoots, stems, and leaves. And while I don’t think we know yet exactly what role all of these foods play in their diet, we do know that this type if roughage allows captive chimps to snack all they want without putting them at risk for diet-related illnesses like heart disease and diabetes.
There are currently seven species of bamboo growing on Young’s Hill, and the chimps harvest from them year-round. Surprisingly, the bamboo on the hill seems to be prized most for its leaves, and the chimps tend to leave the fragile (but I would imagine tasty) shoots alone.
A few other species of bamboo that are more sensitive to Cle Elum’s chilly winters do very well in the chimps’ greenhouse enclosure, and send up their tender shoots (Chusquea gigantea shoots seems to be a delicacy) as early as March.
But in May, all of Young’s Hill becomes an all-you-can-eat salad bar. Even Negra will sit outside to snack on fresh dandelion greens.
Missy, always on the move, takes hers to go.
Spring grass is a favorite of nearly all the chimps. Annie collects only the best blades to bring back to the greenhouse.
In mid-summer, some larger plants begin to grow. Most people would consider them weeds, but the chimps think otherwise. Jody likes mullein, which I imagine to be the equivalent of eating bitter craft felt, but Jody must have a more refined palette.
Missy and a few others like prickly lettuce, which we mistook for dandelions for a while until we picked up some of their leftovers – they are just as prickly as the name suggests. Just like in the wild, captive chimpanzees will sometimes eat foods that are physically difficult to ingest. While many of the plants consumed by wild chimps have been shown to have medicinal value, such as the anti-parasitical Aspilia leaves, we don’t know if captive chimps are attempting to self medicate or are just eating adventurously.
The bane of my existence is this wild mustard. It grows so big and tough that it will break your weed eater. But when it grows inside the chimps’ enclosure, it gets taken care of by nature’s weed eater, otherwise known as Jody.
The chimps could never live on these plants alone, even if they do supplement with the occasional live frog like Negra does. But they are important in other ways. Like tonight, when the chimps all disappeared onto the hill just before dinner, you could almost hear them saying:
To heck with the humans, let’s eat!