Archive for the ‘Enrichment’ Category

The Things We Carry

Friday, May 26th, 2017

A few months ago, Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest was invited to contribute to an exhibit in the Museum of Culture and Environment at Central Washington University. The exhibit, entitled “The Things We Carry,” would feature objects of significance to the members of our local community.

Our community, of course, includes seven chimpanzees, and you’d be hard pressed to find objects of greater significance to their owners than the boots and dolls carried by Jamie and Foxie.

During the opening reception for the exhibit, Dr. Jessica Mayhew, who is both a professor in the Primate Behavior and Ecology program at CWU and a CSNW volunteer, provided some very moving remarks on the installation:

When you have the opportunity to go in and experience the exhibit, you’ll see some objects that undoubtedly look familiar to you.  A pillowcase, a toddler’s dress, empty bags of potato chips.  Also encased are some cowboy boots and dolls.  Cowboy boots in this region are common, and many of us can surely remember the various iterations of Troll dolls beginning in the 1960s.

But what’s special about these boots and these dolls, is that the objects do not belong to humans, they belong to two chimpanzees from Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest: Jamie and Foxie.  Jamie and Foxie are only two of seven chimpanzees residing at CSNW, and they are not the only chimpanzees that carry objects, but their object carrying has become iconic, picked up in popular news stories across the US and globally.

As a primatologist, I have watched my fair share of object manipulation, tool creation, and object play in macaques, in capuchins, in the large-bodied apes.  Jane Goodall first described tool use in chimpanzees in 1960, when she observed David Greybeard termite fish with a piece of grass.  We’ve been grappling with the implications of those observations ever since.

Objects occupy a wide functional range in the lives of primates.  Some are used in the acquisition and processing of food – capuchin monkeys carry large, hard hammer stones up from nearby riverbeds to their nut cracking sites; chimpanzees have been observed to carry sticks, stems, and sturdy grasses from one location in their home range to termite and ant nests, where they know they will not find suitable fishing materials.  Objects do not always have to be inanimate: mother primates regularly carry their infants, most often on their backs, but sometimes on the chest, which can make walking a bit of a challenge.  Still other objects are used in ways that we have only begun to observe and decipher: stone handling in multiple macaque species, log and rock cradling in chimpanzees.

But there is something different when the object is one that’s familiar to us; one that may have played a large role in our childhood, like dolls or action figures, or is an object that is perhaps a part of the larger cultural fabric of a place, like cowboy boots.  When familiar objects are put into hands that are a little less familiar, it makes the divide between human and non-human a little bit narrower.

There are 7 chimpanzees at CSNW, all of them very much individuals, all of them vibrant and compelling; they were known as “The Buckshire Seven”, because they were housed at the Buckshire Corporation in a windowless basement, and spent the majority of their lives leased out for various biomedical studies.  Jamie was born in captivity around 1977, and she spent the first nine years of her life in the entertainment industry before entering into the biomedical realm.  Foxie, on the other hand, was born into the biomedical industry in 1976: she was used in vaccine trials, she was used as a breeder.  Each time she gave birth, her infant was carried away by humans.
This group became “The Cle Elum Seven” when they moved to sanctuary in 2008.  Jamie has spent the last nine years of her life, taking chimpanzee patrols around the property with her human friends, who are always in boots.  Foxie has no shortage of dolls to carry with her, and no risk of them not being there each day.

The exhibit description tells us that, “Objects hold memories. Physical things carry traces of people we have loved, times of joy and terror, and places we may have heard of, but never visited.  They connect us to distant homelands and important moments in personal and family memory. Through our objects, we carry with us complex emotions and histories.  Sometimes, in contemplating these material things, we discover new insights about where we have come from and whom we might become.”

Maybe Jamie’s very specific love of cowboy boots comes from her early days reared with humans.  Maybe Foxie’s love of dolls comes from never fully experiencing motherhood.  Maybe, I’ll leave that for them to know, ultimately.  But I will say that these objects serve as reminders for us, as onlookers, for where these chimpanzees have been and for what humans have done to them.   They are powerful expressions of both great sadness and great silliness.  But they also serve as symbols of hope, that circumstances can change, that life can be better and full of kindness and compassion.

The exhibit title, “The Things We Carry” seems all the more fitting now with the inclusion of these artifacts from our closest relatives.  This is a community-curated exhibition.  Not just this local community of humans with stories to tell, and memories to conjure, but the deep roots shared by humans and our closest kin.  Indeed, we are all carrying physical, emotional, and metaphorical things.

 

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Cooling Off

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Volunteer caregiver Becca brought out the mister today, and it was a hit (though Jody wasn’t sure at first).

Dining al fresco

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

It was so beautiful today I almost hyperventilated. That said, it was by far the hottest day we’ve had this year with a sudden temperature rise to the upper 80’s so the chimps and the humans are still adjusting and taking things slow and easy. Well, the chimps are anyway!

Keri and I thought it would be a great day for a lunch forage on Young’s Hill. The chimps have continued to enjoy the current local bounty of lilacs so we’ve been adding those to forages as well. (Foxie has decided this year that she LOVES them!! She wants absolutely nothing to do with the leave or stems, but happily munches the flowers).

At first everyone was a little reluctant to run out into the sun, but once they realized lunch al fresco was awaiting them, they all ran out together. Burrito, Foxie (that foot!) and Annie:

Annie foraging bipedally and Negra in the foreground:

Negra:

Foxie (with Dora in her mouth):

Burrito:

Jody:

Missy:

Jamie:

Sometimes life is astoundingly beautiful.

For Jody and all the mamas

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

The weekend of celebrations continues in the chimp house today as we celebrate not only Mother’s Day, but beloved Jody, on her 42nd honorary birthday!

I was in my gracious neighbor’s magical backyard bright and early this morning, heisting two armfuls of lilacs. Many of the chimps enjoy smelling and eating them and even now, late in the day, the scent of fresh lilac occasionally is wafts through their home.

We started the celebration off with a beautiful breakfast forage of raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, pineapple, watermelon, and baby bananas on a bed of lettuce, strawberry and banana smoothie, and more sparkling cider.

The greenhouse was bright and sunny as we set up the party. Pineapple tops are a favorite of the birthday girl so we hoped Jody would find this pokey treat:

And she did:

Nothing says party like shoving an entire pokey pineapple top in your mouth:

Dora had a gift for someone:

Foxie gazing at Dora while enjoying her fresh lilacs and melting my heart into a big ol’ puddle:

Annie enjoying a party plate:

For Jamie, parties are even (or maybe I should say especially) serious business. She was methodically looking for her favorites and keeping a watchful eye on the three pinatas hanging from the ceiling until she could get to them. Jamie loves a challenge so this was her kind of party:

The lilacs are quite popular with a few of the girls and Annie was doing her best to collect some on the sly while avoiding the eyes of the more dominant Missy and Jamie and she collected quite a few:

Gorgeous Missy enjoying a treat box:

Burrito was a wild man all morning long. Riling up the girls, rattling the caging, displaying throughout the chimp house. Pretty much normal stuff, but with an extra dash of wild today. But he did find time to settle down and enjoy the company of his friends on their special day and even went to Annie’s defense to reassure her when she got yelled at for picking the “wrong” lilac:

Burrito and Foxie:

And then there’s Negra, who ended the celebration by collecting all the lilacs she could and winding up with a beautiful bouquet:

Mother’s Day is a special day at the sanctuary. If you’re new to the blog and just learning about the chimps, we only know that Jody was most likely born in the wild sometime in 1975. We chose this day to celebrate Jody in honor of the nine infants she gave birth to, but who were stolen from her during her time in biomedical research. With the exception of Jamie and Burrito, all of the chimps residing here had children and were denied the right to raise them. So today, with full hearts, we honor each of the chimps, their loss of their own mothers, and their children who lost the opportunity to grow up with their amazing mothers. You can learn more about each of their stories here.

Mother’s Day can feel like a bittersweet celebration here at times. But what I am finding is that with each passing year, as we’re astounded and privileged to witness the strength, healing and resiliency of these amazing beings, the pain of knowing the horror they endured for so long starts to fade into the shadows, eclipsed by the incredible light of each of these special souls. While we will always honor all they’ve been through, it’s really become about celebrating all they’ve overcome as unique individuals, the hope and joy they embrace each day with, and the family you’ve made possible for them to have. I hope with all my heart that they feel the same.

Happy Birthday, beautiful Jody!! We love you so very much!! And Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamas out there! And I really think that’s all of us in some shape or form. 🙂

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Hoot!

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

It’s finally here! Our biggest fundraiser of the year, our annual Hoot! Gala and Spring Fling celebration! And while the humans are on their way to one of the most unique and exciting parties in the city, they aren’t the only people partying. The chimps are having their own celebration with a dinner of field roast and roasted sweet potato on a bed of lettuce and cabbage, sparkling cider, and a huge forage with sweet onions, corn on the cob, and fresh coconuts:

On this one day of the year, we have to get the chimps settled in earlier than usual so that staff working in the chimp house have time to get spiffed up and head to the gala. Routine and the comfort and security of knowing what to expect are important to the chimps and we don’t want to veer from that more than necessary or have them getting bored with a little more time on their hands, so a sure fire way to keep everyone active, happy and engaged is to set out an exciting forage cut into teeny, tiny pieces.

Annie sitting in a field of forage:

Burrito was beside himself, as usual when there’s food involved (that’s Jody behind him):

Jamie likes to drag a table around with her during forages for easier collection:

She decided to eat the field roast first and save the rest for later:

While Jamie was occupied elsewhere, Burrito bravely decided to steal her leftover dinner “boats.” I braced myself for Jamie to scream at the top of her lungs (her tactic when someone is touching – or even thinking about touching – something she doesn’t want them to), but she must have decided she found something else worth her attention and Burrito scooped them up without issue and food squeaked to celebrate:

Annie mid food grunt (you can just make out Negra’s ear as she sits in the sunny window below Annie enjoying her dinner with a view):

Jody, ever the adventurous foodie, was collecting corn cobs:

Foxie and Missy were ladies of the loft for this one and out of sight of the camera.

Anna, myself and volunteer, Helen, put the chimps’ dinner out a couple hours ago and Jamie is still foraging!

The chimps are completely silent as I write this so I just went to check on everyone. And who did I find, but this guy, fighting off a food coma in the last sun puddle of the day:

Somehow he mustered enough energy to still be an adorable goof:

But it was so hard:

There are some crazy amazing items of this guy (and more!) up for auction tonight. To all of you who have helped sponsor this amazing celebration, volunteers who have helped plan this party of all parties, to all those working to make it special for our guests, those who are attending the gala and making it so much fun, those who will be raising your paddles high or who have been pre-bidding online, and those of you cheering us on from home, there aren’t enough words of thanks to each of you for making everything that you do, possible. You make this sanctuary for these seven amazing chimpanzees a home. A home filled with love, comfort, joy, adventure and healing. And we hope a home for others, who are awaiting their day in their own sun puddles.

Hoots of love and gratitude from all of us to all of you! Have a fantastic evening and check in tomorrow for our celebration of Jody’s birthday and Mother’s Day! Yep, that’s how we roll in the chimp house…party, after party. Hopefully, Burrito is revived by then…

Where Foxie goes, so goes her doll.

Saturday, May 6th, 2017

The photos below were taken last week when Foxie’s doll of the day was Dora the Explorer’s blonde friend.

If you don’t know the history of Foxie and her dolls, learn all about it here.

Since her initial interest in troll dolls, she has expanded her collection of favorites to include Dora and friends with the rare but occasional interest in other dolls.

Not all of the interactions she has with dolls are of the affectionate nature – see the video at the bottom of this post.

 

A video from a few years ago:

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Walks in the rain

Monday, May 1st, 2017

There is a gorgeous book recently written by a mother and daughter in Hawaii called “Hānau ka Ua” in which they recorded over 200 hundred names for rain in the Hawaiian language. It is written that their kūpuna, or elders, were so attuned to the environment that they gave individual names to the variety of rains and winds on the islands. They knew each rain based on where and when it fell, the intensity and duration, the effect it had on people, the sound it made on the trees, and even the scent it carried. So in tune to their environment they considered it their kin.

In this part of the world, spring is ushered in on the winds. Not just any old breezes, but winds that come off the still snow-covered mountains and barrel down the valley like a freight train, that kick and buck like a wild horse, and throw sticks and stones for good measure. The days like that are sunny, but often leave all the primates taking cover. But on the days when the wind’s wild rumpus finally settles, like today, it can be cloudy and rainy. A gentle, soothing rain.

When not on Young’s Hill, the chimps chose to spend the entire day in the greenhouse, under the sound of rain on the roof. Annie nested there all day, as she often does when it rains. During a downpour at lunch we all just sat taking cover together, faces turned upward listening to the soothing rhythm.

Foxie keeping France Dora safe:

When Jamie insisted on multiple walks in the rain today, I marveled at the transition she’s made to being a Pacific Northwest chimp, virtually un-phased by the showers. Each walk for each kind of rain was different, but all were joyous and calm.

In a gentle, but steady light rain we didn’t dawdle, but she walked surprisingly slowly, the only sounds the raindrops on my Gortex jacket and our feet moving through the wet grass:

 

Later in the day when the rain let up and turned to only a few sprinkles was when she decided to kick up her heels and run:

On the final walk of the day most everyone decided to come out (though it was too wet for Negra today).

Burrito:

Jody:

Foxie and Dora:

Missy:

I’m so grateful that the chimps have the opportunity to be so connected to their home. To each rain and wind, snow and sunny day. To be kin with their environment and the wilderness in their hearts. Just as they were meant to be. Just as we were all meant to be.

Selecting the right boot

Friday, April 28th, 2017

Jamie loves to patrol her 2-acre enclosure in the company of her caregivers. But before the walk begins, she has to select the right boot for us to wear.

Country chimps

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

Chimpanzee sanctuaries naturally tend to be in rural areas. And as you might imagine, for chimpanzees who have spent the majority of their lives to date in biomedical research, finding themselves exploring their outdoor habitats in the country can bring enrichment in all manner of forms.

This morning was beautiful, the grass is a brighter shade of green with each passing day and the chimps love pouring out onto the hill after breakfast to play and investigate things. Foxie took Dora (with a windswept coif) along this morning and decided to take in the surroundings in a quiet spot while deciding where her morning adventure would begin:

Annie and Missy came tumbling up the hill together and Foxie decided to follow them further up toward the structures:

As Jamie and I were walking along the perimeter together, I noticed Foxie in the background suddenly stick Dora in her mouth and with a determined look head quickly across the hill toward the fence, on a mission.

Then I realized what her mission was probably about. “Intruder” cows who needed to be run off! (Meanwhile, Annie – in the foreground – was happily picking spring grass and could have cared less about the cows):

But fierce Foxie wasn’t having it and Jamie quickly backed her friend up to chase the cows down the hill. These sweet calves belong to our neighbor and are currently grazing a portion of our property. Can you imagine what the cows’ perspective must be when they first see the chimps? Scanning their mental repertoires of possible fellow animals and thinking, “Squirrels? No…Dogs? No…Horses? No…What???”:

Notice Annie still just going about her business 🙂 :

Annie looking after Jamie, Foxie and the cows, as they all ran by, probably trying to figure out what all the hullabaloo was about: