Archive for the ‘Caregivers’ Category

Building Trust

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

Out of all the humans who work and volunteer at the sanctuary, only a handful have any sort of physical contact with the chimpanzees. Those who do must go through months of safety training first. Chimpanzees are incredibly strong and unpredictable, so we take these safety rules very seriously. Even the chimps’ wonderful local vet, Dr. Erin Zamzow, never touches the chimps unless they are sedated for a medical procedure. (Did I mention that we take our safety rules seriously?)

Dr. Erin has been assisting the sanctuary for years, and has been an integral part of several procedures, but still the chimps primarily know her as the doctor who comes around when something scary happens. So in an effort to demystify her a little, she’s been spending more time at the sanctuary – we want her to be a familiar, non-threatening presence in the chimps’ lives. She is currently going through caregiver training; when she’s done, she’ll be able to serve meals to the chimps, play chase and tug of war, groom, and give back rubs. She’ll be a trusted friend.

Busy mornings

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

The majority of the action at the sanctuary happens all before lunch! We use this time every day to clean each area thoroughly, asking the chimpanzees to shift from one section of the building to another. Once the chimpanzees have all vacated an area (usually convinced by the prospect of breakfast or snacks), the lead staff member of the day closes all the chimpanzee doors leading to an area using a remote controlled lever and lock system. We follow this by performing safety double checks to ensure that an area is chimp-free and doors are properly closed and locked. Only then can we enter an area for cleaning.

We started today by serving the chimpanzees some smoothie and peanuts so we could get the greenhouse area closed off for cleaning. Intern Kailie is training to be a level 3 caregiver (someone that serves meals and can interact safely with the chimpanzees). Staff member Elizabeth was training her this morning.

Once we knew we could safely enter the greenhouse, we unlocked the area and got to work!

We always switch out dirty blankets and enrichment for clean items.

And we do any necessary scrubbing!

Jamie usually acts as supervisor through one of the windows:

We put out 70 fresh blankets a day, so that means we do laundry all day long! Here’s intern Samantha keeping our washer going:

After the greenhouse cleaning comes the rest of breakfast. Today it was apples, pineapple, primate chow, and vitamins:

The lead staff member does a series of safety checks before the chimpanzees can get access to Young’s Hill in the morning. Here is Burrito entering the raceway to the outdoor enclosure first thing this morning:

Then on to cleaning the playroom! We always appreciate happy interns like Amanda!

After the playroom is scrubbed, rinsed, squeegeed, and locked, the lead staff member lets the chimpanzees have access back to their fresh clean area. This morning the chimps enjoyed a forage of nuts. Missy found the pineapple top we also put out.

Then comes more safety checks to enter the front rooms. Here Kailie checks to make sure a door lever is closed and locked:

It was about this time that Jamie decided she was ready for her first walk around Young’s Hill. She had me put on these ankle boots today:

Then we set out for a walk accompanied by Missy:

Meanwhile, our hardworking interns finished cleaning the front rooms. Locking and double checking all the doors is the last step in the process:

We are so lucky to have such amazing volunteers and interns! We couldn’t do it without them or our amazing supporters! Yesterday was Giving Tuesday and we exceeded both our goals for the day! There is just so much love and support that surrounds these seven chimpanzees!

Chimpanzee Time

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Last Sunday we all changed the clocks back an hour, but the chimps have no use for telling the time (other than when their stomachs tell them it’s time to eat). Rather than changing the chimps’ schedule and routine, the humans change their own work schedule. During the winter months we start work an hour earlier and in the spring we start an hour later. This way the chimpanzees get to remain blissfully unaware of springing forward or falling back.

Jamie’s nesting schedule remains the same: whenever she feels like it!

Keeping Fit

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

Boss Jamie does frequent patrols of the perimeter of the chimps’ outdoor habitat to make sure everything is on the up and up. These patrols happen multiple times each day, and most of the time Jamie prefers for a caregiver or three to accompany her (and sometimes some of the other chimps tag along also). A walk around the hilly 2-acre habitat is good exercise for everyone involved, but occasionally Jamie pushes us to go a little faster.

Building trust

Friday, October 27th, 2017

Providing medical care to chimpanzees is always a challenge, but it can be particularly difficult when they have been subject to decades of invasive medical research procedures against their will.

Years ago, we participated in a study that considered whether chimpanzees might exhibit abnormal behaviors that cluster into syndromes similar to posttraumatic stress disorder and depression in humans (you can read it here). Negra was featured in the paper as a case vignette:

A chimpanzee named Negra was a 36-year-old female at the time of the study. Taken from the wild in Africa as an infant, she has remained in captivity since that time. She was used in invasive research, including hepatitis experiments, and for breeding. Each of her infants was removed from her at an early age. During the period in which she was used in research, she was kept in isolation for several years. Approximately 1 year prior to the study, she was transferred to Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest in Washington state, where she currently lives with six other chimpanzees.

Negra met alternative criteria for depression and PTSD. According to reports, she had persistent depressed hunched posture, and she was socially withdrawn. Negra slept excessively during the daytime, and she lacked interest in play, food, other individuals, and grooming. She also demonstrated poor attention to tasks. She was described as slow and sluggish, and at times, she appeared anxious. In response to an unexpected touch, she would “threat bark,” scream, or run away. Compared with other chimpanzees, she demonstrated less variability in her facial expressions. Caretakers reported that her face was expressionless, “like a ghost,” for at least a month after she arrived at the sanctuary. She seldom, if ever, exhibited a play face. She was tested for a thyroid disorder and assessed for other medical causes of her clinical presentation, but all laboratory tests were within normal limits. Based on later reports provided by her caretakers, some of her symptoms have improved since she has been living in the sanctuary. She has become more interested in other chimpanzees, including grooming, and the variability in her facial expressions has increased.

Negra’s anxious response to being touched was not just a sad reminder of her earlier trauma; it was a serious impediment to her care at the sanctuary. Chimpanzees routinely receive wounds from fights, they develop dental problems, they get heart disease and diabetes and many other illnesses, and these things often require medical intervention.

There’s always a way to force medical care on an uncooperative chimpanzee, and sadly that is what’s required from time to time. But that can be stressful and even dangerous. They deserve a chance to participate willingly. Giving them that choice, however, requires a lot of time and energy on the part of their caregivers.

For years, CSNW caregivers (first Debbie and now Anna) have been working with Negra to habituate her to basic medical evaluations and treatments as part of our positive reinforcement training program. These efforts have paid off many times over, most recently when Negra received a wound to her back during a fight. Negra let Anna spray the injury with antiseptic solution and she allowed Dr. Erin to follow that up with laser therapy. In cases where antibiotics may be needed, Negra will even let her caregivers swab the wound to culture the infection and determine the best course of treatment.

For some chimpanzees, this kind of cooperation is no big deal. But chimpanzees are individuals – they have unique life experiences and they cope with those experiences in different ways. Negra has never given her trust lightly. It had to be earned through years of persistent efforts on the part of her caregivers.

It has certainly been worth it.

Crisp days and spooky nights

Monday, October 16th, 2017

We’ve already seen some snow in the surrounding mountains and apparently have a long stretch of rain on the way, but for now the days have been dawning with beautiful blue skies and crisp, frosty mornings. Despite being able to see our breath in the morning air, the chimps have been loving being on Young’s Hill and waiting to warm up in the bright sun:

Peas-in-a-pod, Annie and Missy, climbed up together to enjoy the view in the cold autumn air:

Jody sat for ages in the morning sun then ventured up the hill for a snack to bring back to the top of the greenhouse where she could warm up:

And much to my surprise, when Jamie and I were returning from a walk around the hill, I spotted Negra of all people enjoying the sun and the view despite the cold temperatures:

I think Foxie was just as surprised to spot Negra out on such a brisk morning and decided she and her current favorite doll would check in on Negra:

Double-decker chimps:

In other news, Jamie has been doing something new this year! As a little background, if you’ve been a follower of the blog for very long you are probably aware that Jamie often enjoys late evening strolls with her caregivers. After dinner, after the other chimps have gone to bed, and past the time that her caregivers are supposed to go home for the day. We can’t blame her, evenings at the sanctuary are lovely, peaceful times and during summer a welcome relief from the heat of the day. We’ve adjusted our schedule so that we all rotate to cover PM on call in the evenings and two of us can be with her in the event that she (or anyone else) chooses to stay out past the end of our shift. This is one of many beauties of sanctuary; the chimps get to choose when they want to come in for the night. And it’s really a heartfelt joy and honor to be able to provide such a home for them.

Up until this year, we knew that even if Jamie wanted to stay out late, once it got dark she was ready to come inside. Well, that’s no longer the case! Back in August, and again last night, Jamie decided to brave walking around the hill with us in the pitch dark! The first time Jamie did this she was clearly nervous, but clearly wanted to go so Kelsi and I grabbed the spotlight and scanned the hill for her so she could see everything and know she was safe. It took her awhile to build up her courage, but once she made up her mind we were off! Kelsi held a light for us to see where we were going while I held the spotlight just ahead of Jamie to light her path. At every corner of the perimeter we’d stop and I’d light up the entire path ahead of her to remind her she was safe and then we’d venture on.

It’s phenomenal to me when I think how much courage this took for her to do. Not only is it entirely unnatural for a chimp to be on the ground outside in the dark (let alone one who spent three decades in a small cage in biomedical research), but she had to trust us enough to hold the light for her all the way around and not leave her. But once we made our way safely around she was thrilled, ready to go again! We walked around and around that night, carving a path with the light until 10:30!

So last night Jamie decided she was ready for another brave adventure. In the spirit of spooky, magical autumn nights and the month of Jamie-ween (we celebrate Jamie’s birthday on Halloween) here is Jamie in the pitch dark of the green house last night gesturing for Kelsi and I to put on the cowboy boots and get ready to run around the hill again. To say she was thrilled with the evening is an understatement. You can see the light from the chimp house through the doorway behind her where everyone else was cozy and asleep in their night nests. And what better way to celebrate Jamie’s birthday month and get into the spirit of Jamie-ween than a photo a little reminiscent of the “Blair Chimp Project”:

Harry Potter Day

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

In our continuing effort to come up with new and interesting enrichment for the chimpanzees, we present to you…

Some Days are Just Silly

Sunday, September 17th, 2017

It was all fun and games today at CSNW! This morning I was greeted with breathy pants, grooming (Burrito & Neggie grooming one another), and chimps playing games of chase with each other (Annie, Missy, & Foxie). Jamie made a few of the staff and level 3 volunteers try on boots and after finding the right pair she couldn’t contain her excitement and took off for a game of chase!

Annie: Grooming her leg and secretly watching Burrito play chase

Annie: Later in the day enjoying kale from the garden

Missy: Hanging out in the greenhouse

Jody: Taking it easy and soaking in the warm sun

Foxie: Carrying her dora doll around

Burrito found a sweatband and put it on to play chase. Burrito put it on his head as captured in the photos, but he also put it around his wrists and ran around like crazy!

Burrito: Thinking about wearing the sweatband

Burrito: Putting the sweatband on, but still holding his wooden toys

Burrito: Playing chase

Burrito: Playing chase with volunteer Erin and the sweatband over his face


Garden fresh!

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

We get pretty amazingly fresh produce donations from our supporters! Missy gave today’s lunch a 5 star rating!