We tend to equate mothers with maternity. But whether or not we find ourselves in the position of mothering children, I believe we are all mothers in some form, at some point. Maybe it’s mothering our animal friends, loved ones and family, ourselves, our plants, or even a creative project we’ve put our hearts into. It’s that innate sense we have to nurture, protect and care for someone or something we hold dear, or sometimes just a compassion and empathy that comes from witnessing a fellow being just trying to get through life the same as we are.
If you’re new to the blog or the chimps’ histories you may not be aware that Annie, Missy, Negra, Jody and Foxie were all used as “breeders” during their time in biomedical research. Each of them was forced to have child after child only to have their babies stolen from them shortly after birth, destined to a future as horrid as their parents. (To our knowledge Jamie has never had any children). You can learn more about the chimps’ histories on our Eyes on Apes page.
Foxie is mother to four children. Two daughters, Angie (who thankfully resides at Save the Chimps in Florida, and Kelsey (who resides at Alamogordo Primate Facility), and a rare set of twin sons, David and Steve (who are sadly both deceased now).
Foxie is rarely without at least one of her troll or Dora dolls and appears to have a tendency to carry two at a time. Maybe when Foxie chooses to carry two dolls at a time she can’t decide between favored dolls, perhaps two are the most she can comfortably carry, or it’s another reason I can’t possibly imagine. We can never say with certainty what the chimps are thinking, but I often wonder if it’s indicative of memories of her twins.
After breakfast yesterday the chimps headed out onto Young’s Hill and Foxie and her two Doras du jour headed off to explore on their own.
Walking along the perimeter with Jamie, as we got to the top of the hill I thought I spotted Foxie and the Doras high atop “Jamie’s Tower,” but she wasn’t immediately visible. Then reaching the other side of the structure, I could see her spying through the slats, enjoying her own world.
Gazing at her Dora dolls:
I stood watching Foxie, utterly mesmerized by how tiny she appeared against the backdrop of the stunning views surrounding her sanctuary home. Then for the first time that I’ve seen, Foxie began “phantom” nesting (nesting behavior in the absence of nesting material) with her dolls on the tower. Foxie doesn’t build nests as most chimps do, but we often see her (and sometimes Burrito) engaging in this behavior in a corner of the chimp house during which she claps and clasps her hands together while moving her arms up, across, and down, almost in a figure eight. Similar to movements chimps in the wild make as they bend in and fold branches around them when they create nests, as well as chimps in captivity who use blankets and other nesting material to build their nests. We don’t know a lot about this behavior, but as far as we know it’s only been observed in captive chimps and is not commonly seen.
We can’t know if any of the chimps would have been good mothers given their unnatural circumstances and the trauma they endured, but chances are had they not been deprived of the right to their natural lives, they would have been.
I’m not sure if Foxie was mothering her dolls or mothering herself through the comfort and joy they provide her, both, or neither. And it doesn’t matter. In whatever form it takes, Foxie is a good mother.
This tiny chimpanzee woman’s world has grown exponentially from what it was for the first 32 years of her life. But her heart and spirit can never be constrained by space.