Some things you just can’t explain

August 15th, 2014 by J.B.

When Foxie first came to Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest in 2008, she had trouble adapting. She was cautious when it came to developing relationships with new people, though given her history that wasn’t an unreasonable approach. But she was also wary of her new surroundings, especially in larger spaces. Each time she was allowed into a new area, she would cling to the walls or walk in circles around the edge of the room. She was also uneasy with all the enrichment we provided to the chimps each day. She would go out of her way to avoid walking near the piles of toys we put in the playroom, and while the other chimps would make nests each night with fresh blankets, Foxie would push them out of the way to clear a spot for herself on the bare concrete floor. Weeks passed, and while the other chimps reveled in all the new opportunities available to them, Foxie continued to find comfort in the emptiness that was all she had known for 31 years.

Then one day she met Trixie.

web_foxie trixie

It was just a doll, but Foxie was immediately drawn to it. Her reasons for choosing this troll doll, in all its pink-haired, pantsless glory, will remain one of life’s great mysteries. But we look back on that moment now as a turning point for Foxie. She hung onto Trixie and carried her everywhere she went. Supporters started sending in more dolls, and Foxie’s collection grew into the hundreds. The dolls were a source of entertainment for Foxie, but they also provided comfort and seemed to instill in her a sense of confidence and purpose. And they helped ease her into this new world filled with new people and things.

web Foxie walk YH troll in mouth dora on back IMG_7656

Whatever the reason for Foxie’s obsession, we thought it was uniquely hers. The other chimps would pick up trolls from time to time, but mostly just to initiate games of chase with Foxie. They didn’t seem to get it. This type of deep and lasting connection between chimp and troll was limited to one quirky chimpanzee at one quirky sanctuary in the mountains of Washington.

That is, until Negra decided it was time to get in on this whole “troll” thing.


For the last couple of weeks, Negra has been carrying around troll dolls everywhere. She takes them to bed and sleeps with them in her nest. She shows up at meal time with them tucked into her “pelvic pocket.”



We have no idea what makes a chimpanzee decide, at age 41 and after six years at the sanctuary, to adopt troll dolls. Maybe it’s like the chimpanzees at Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage in Zambia who all decided that it was cool to stick grass in their ears. Maybe she’s watched Foxie carry these things around for so long that she’s finally decided to see what the fuss is about. Or maybe Negra just realized that, after having her own children stolen from her in the lab, it felt good to care for someone, even if they are made of plastic.

Some things you just can’t explain.


16 Responses to “Some things you just can’t explain”

  1. Amy M says:

    Wonderful post, JB, as always. πŸ™‚

  2. Jeani Goodrich says:

    J. B. What a very interesting and helpful post. I really enjoy reading your blogs. I agree with Diana that it’s a thesis waiting to happen and Negra just added to it. I also think somehow Negra is coming out of another shell. Pant hoot to both Negra and Foxie.

  3. Michelle Chambless says:

    Love, love, love……..thank you!

  4. Rita Stevenson says:

    Perhaps you cant explain, it, but, what ever it is,
    it works for them in their own special and unique way ~
    Im so thrilled to see NEGRA further exploring
    and finding the comfort of Troll dolls,
    Thank you CSNW
    thank you for supporting the 7 VERY SPECIAL CHIMPS
    whom Ive come to know, via this blog platform .
    Negra’s level of comfort and joy is very important to me,
    I love Negra so much

  5. June says:

    What a moving post..thank you….

  6. Humphrey says:

    Love you Negra !

  7. Stephanie says:

    You write so well in your explanation of the pictures and the journey the chimps are taking. Thank all of you so much for everything you do for them and sharing their stories.

  8. Eileen says:

    I also loved the picture in yesterday’s blog of Jamie sleeping with a troll!

  9. Kathleen says:

    J.B. When are you going to write a book on CSNW? You have a gift of putting words down and painting this visual and emotional picture. Some things you can’t explain but you did. When I saw Negra with the stuffed monkey earlier in the week I was so thrilled to see her connecting. But discovering that now she too is content to have a troll at her side β€” well I am speechless, touched and hopeful. Maybe Negra’s dark past just took longer to shake and now she is ready to love and care for a troll friend. Oh Negra β€” I just love her so. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

    Did you know the first trolls were called Good Luck Trolls? Appears they are full good luck! (WIsh I still had my troll collection so I could give it to Foxie and Negra β€” it was endless!)

  10. Chris says:

    Ditto everyone elses comments J.B. This was another very thoughtful and insightful post of yours. Negra…such a beautiful old soul, full of mystery and pride. I think she will continue to suprise her very own unique way. Yes, some things are just not meant to be explained. Just as the chimps are now allowed to make their own choices, they will also hold on to their own secrets…

  11. Wanda Trotta says:

    Perhaps since Negra was the oldest it took her longer to shed the atrocities of those awful years. Older humans have a harder time shedding bad memories – the younger you are the more resilient.
    Just a “maybe”P:)
    Whatever the reason, three cheers for Negra! Now we will all have to send more trolls:)

  12. nicki says:

    I have a love for the troll doll because of Foxie. I have 1 hot pink haired little key tag, but I make sure its hair is in place and I keep it near and dear and I am always thinking of Foxie because Of my new troll doll key chain. I am 39, 3 years younger than Negra. I see what all the fuss is about for the love of the troll doll. I love the troll doll. When I was grwoing up I did not think much of these troll dolls and now I cannot get enough the fun and joy they bring to Foxie’s life. Foxie is my inspiration, for the love of the Troll Doll. I have not named my little girl yet, maybe I will not, or maybe I will. Negra is 41 and loving it , damn it I am 39 and loving it. I relate to Negra. Negra and I are kindred spirits.

  13. econobiker says:

    One might observe that a troll dolls face – especially eyes, eye sockets and eyebrow design- along with ear and general face width design is much like a juvenile chimpanzee.

    If one would detail a troll doll with non harmful paint or markers to make its head hair brown, add drawn on brown “fur” to its body, and then draw on typical juvenile chimp white chin “hair”. Then allow the adult chimp the choice of this troll chimp baby doll versus an un-altered troll doll to see the result if the altered doll was chosen more often over an un-altered doll.

  14. econobiker says:

    Forgot to mention to also include on the altered troll doll, the application of white paint or marker to the “baby chimp” troll doll’s posterior region, again to match up the typical body fur shading of a juvenile chimpanzee.

    I would think that artistic decoration of a troll doll to create a “baby chimp” troll doll might be the “missing link” in the female chimpanzees’ enthusiastic adoption of these dolls especially if one considers their possible memories of nurturing their own off-spring (prior to removal from their care) or if they remember playing with other juveniles chimpanzees when they, themselves, were juveniles quarantined to be with other juvenile chimps without adult chimps from which to model behaviors.

  15. econobiker says:

    I have just looked up “Dora the Explorer” character dolls.

    Without knowing which exact Dora doll the chimps have, this still would warrant investigation on which features are very similar to juvenile chimpanzees as the Dora dolls I found in internet images seem to have a juvenile chimp- like faces especially in regards to the large brown eyes.

  16. Ellen Cohen says:

    Welcome to Foxie’s passion Negra! Enjoy the dolls.