Some of the most important things we can provide the chimpanzees are choices. The choice to explore their outdoor area or to nest inside. The choice to play with their chimp and human friends or nap. The choice to play with enrichment or ignore it. The choice to stay in one area or not when we are trying to shift them for meals or cleaning. The choices are many and we particularly love it when the chimps take it upon themselves to engage throughout the day in what they find interesting as long as we provide the options.
Choices relieve the inevitable bouts of boredom these intelligent, curious and active people experience at times being in captivity. And choices of how the chimps wanted to spend their moments and days was not something they often received prior to living in sanctuary. Yes, they are still in captivity and ultimately, the humans control their environment and schedule, but we do our very best at all times to work cooperatively with the chimps and give them choices at every possible opportunity. We want the chimpanzees to feel as much as possible that they finally get to call the shots. And really, they do.
These photos will hopefully provide an idea of how the chimpanzees choose to spend their days, in snippets:
Negra, dozing in the morning sun in the greenhouse when I first arrived:
Foxie and Dracula troll enjoyed a toothbrush while waiting for breakfast:
After breakfast, Burrito headed up Young’s Hill to climb one of the structures:
He is exhibiting a fear grimace here (notice it looks very similar to a human smile, but means quite the opposite for chimpanzees – when chimps smile they only show their bottom teeth). Burrito sometimes fear grimaces when doing new things on the hill until he feels more comfortable. He may be feeling a little nervous as he courageously walks out to the end of the plank:
Feeling more comfortable back on the platform:
Jody wasn’t far behind Burrito, but decided to survey the area for some wild greens instead:
Success! And she decides to head back to the greenhouse:
Annie chose to head straight for the new structure and enjoy a little quiet time and the view from Carlene’s Tower:
Missy decided to take the swinging bridge over to the other side:
Jamie decided to join Missy on Jamie’s Tower, but climbed the pole as opposed to taking the “simple” way up of the ladder:
Foxie joined Jamie a bit later:
While all this was occurring on the hill, Negra changed nests and took a post-breakfast nap:
Back inside later in the day, Jamie was thrilled to find one of her favorite enrichment items out – her “kitchen sink” filled with water and paper towels at the ready. She immediately wiped her nose:
And washed and dried her hands:
In between lunch and dinner the chimps also enjoyed checking out their growing garden and sampling some fresh peas and green onions, playing chase and grooming with caregivers and each other, cooling off with an ice cube snack, and napping throughout the day. And Jamie went on to check out new boots and enjoy an evening of walks around the hill while the other chimps headed to bed in the cooler playroom after dinner.
Annie, utterly relaxed:
As caregivers, continually providing the chimpanzees with new and interesting options of how to spend their time is one of our biggest challenges. And seeing them utilize all their options and sometimes create their own, is one of our biggest joys. And hopefully, one of their biggest joys as well.