Sanctuary, seven ways

July 25th, 2017 by Anna

Sanctuary means different things for the seven chimpanzee individuals that live in Cle Elum, Washington.

Negra’s sanctuary lies in the solitude and comfort of a giant nest:

And sometimes the chance to peacefully pick wild greens on Young’s Hill

Jody finds sanctuary in the company of others:

as well in moments of quiet:

and bounty:

If Annie had to spell sanctuary, she would spell it M-I-S-S-Y:

Missy’s sanctuary is all about movement!

Jamie’s sanctuary is filled with cowboy boots:

And boot related activities:

Burrito’s sanctuary needs to be delicious:

and fun!

Foxie’s sanctuary wouldn’t be complete without dolls:

and friends!

and friends that steal said dolls and play keep-away!

Happy Birthday, Tamara!

July 25th, 2017 by Katelyn

Today’s day of sanctuary was sponsored by Ben Chandler in honor of Tamara Beus!  “In celebration of Tamara’s birthday we hope all the beautiful chimpanzees have a wonderful day!” 

The chimps are so fortunate to have so many friends both near and far and we’re always thrilled to see them included in so many thoughts, celebrations, and well, families!

Ben, thank you so much for choosing to celebrate Tamara’s birthday in such a thoughtful and compassionate way! It’s so lovely that her special day is making a difference in the chimps’ lives.

Tamara, all of us here at the sanctuary wish you the happiest of days! And we hope it’s filled with all the good things, all the things that make your heart happy. Have a beautiful day!


jamie tightrope walking


Missy carrying food to greenhouse



July 24th, 2017 by Katelyn

Today dawned sunny and hot from the start. But that didn’t stop Burrito from an exciting game of chase in the greenhouse to start the day off. Sometimes just the sound of our voice greeting the chimps “Good Morning” as we round the greenhouse is enough to get him to fly down the platform, play stomping his foot as he looks to us to chase him. He seems to particularly love when we stand at one end as he charges toward us, play kicks the caging and turns to run back the other way. As you can tell by all of his hair standing on end (pilo-erect) he was pretty excited about chase this morning as he charged toward me:

Ellie quickly moved to her morning shaded spot under the visitor platform as the chimps enjoyed breakfast service in the greenhouse (background):

First thing this morning, Kelsi and I trekked over to one of the ponds on the property to harvest some cattails for the chimps. We are lucky to have a wide variety of wild plants across the property that are safe for the chimps to consume that either we, or they themselves, can harvest. Cattails are a favorite and they love to eat the stalks and then savor them in wadge form throughout the day. We hid a few on Young’s Hill for some lucky foraging chimp to find at some point, but put the rest in the greenhouse. Being hot, the chimps were quick to grab up their share and find a comfortable and cool-ish spot to enjoy them. Here’s Jody:

Cattails are high on the list of favored browse for the boss lady, Jamie (and Annie enjoyed hers in the background):


Foxie’s Magic Touch

July 23rd, 2017 by Kelsi

Foxie is one of the only chimps that can really get Jamie to loosen up. Which makes sense because Foxie really knows how to have a good time. I find Foxie often doing a lot of imaginary play with her dolls and enrichment, getting her caregivers to run around and do crazy things, and she loves to play chase and explode into crazy fun spins! But it is really a sight to see when she gets the Boss (Jamie) to let her guard down and cut loose, because we all know how busy Jamie’s schedule is.

First Responder Days

July 22nd, 2017 by Anna

The sanctuary is no stranger to relying on the kindness of our community’s first responders. In 2012 we were faced with the terrifying Taylor Bridge Fire, a huge wild fire that threatened and destroyed many homes in our area. Last year another smaller fire broke out on a nearby property.

We know that wildfire is a risk during the summer in this area, and the chimp house was built with that in mind. We have emergency plans in place and now have a sprinkler system that surrounds the building. Still, for each of these events, we were very fortunate to have the Kittitas County Fire Department protecting the chimpanzees’ home. We are incredibly grateful for their service to the community. This year we arranged a couple of special visits for the county’s first responders to come meet the chimpanzees and get more information on our building and property. Last weekend Kittitas County Fire District #7 came out.


Of course, Ellie/Buttons had to say hello to some of her old friends:


And today we welcomed District #1 from Thorp. As soon as Jamie saw the black rugged boots everyone was wearing, she took off on a walk around Young’s Hill and we all accompanied:

Most of the other chimpanzees also came out to see what was going on.

Today’s amazing group from Kittitas County Fire District 1. It was so nice to meet everyone in a non-emergency setting!:






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 occurs infrequently. 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. Hence 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..