Archive for the ‘Tool Use’ Category

Trying new things

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

The other day, after the PRT session that Elizabeth filmed, Jamie and I followed a typical post-PRT routine. Because I had spent the last fifteen minutes requesting that she do things, it was her turn to request that I do something (I’m pretty sure that Jamie believes it is ALWAYS time for the humans to do something for her, but I digress). So I put on her latest favorite pair of boots, we did a perimeter walk, and afterward we settled in for a grooming session in the greenhouse.

Jamie is easily the most dexterous chimpanzee I’ve ever known, and she’s a master at using tools. Her fine-motor ability is really quite impressive. Just watch this video of Jamie giving J.B. a “manicure” and read this story about her tool-altering skills and forethought.

It was just Jamie in the greenhouse, grooming my fingers and the boots, when Annie came over with a tool of her own.


For the first several years of Annie’s sanctuary life, she didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the humans – not because she wasn’t interested in us, but, I think, because she was a ball of anxiety, and she didn’t want to over-step her place in the social world of chimpanzees and humans. We have written many times on the blog about Annie’s ever-growing confidence in the last few years (for example, this touching post from Elizabeth).


We’ve witnessed all of the chimpanzees trying new things over the last nine+ years at the sanctuary. We’ve gotten to know them so well that when they do something new, it stands out. You may already be familiar with “Fake Neggie” – a nickname for Missy when she is adopting Negra’s quintessential blanket-over-head nesting style.


You may not know that there was a time a few years ago when Negra decided troll dolls were her thing too, carrying one with her from bed to meals to adventures on Young’s Hill.

It lasted for a few weeks, then the fad seemed to pass for Negra and she’s been mostly troll-less ever since, leaving the doll obsession to Foxie.


Jody is sometimes seen with troll dolls, and Annie tries them out once in a while too.


Imitation is an important part of observing and learning. J.B. wrote a blog post back in 2012 about how copying the behavior of others shouldn’t be dismissed as somehow intellectually unimpressive. It’s worth the read.


When Annie confidently walked towards me with her rather blunt tool and pushed it out through the caging to groom the boot I was wearing, my smile could not have been any bigger. She was clumsy and awkward with the over-sized tool she had chosen, but she gave it a go, even with boss Jamie sitting right there to watch.


Annie didn’t stay long, and I don’t think she had any kind of magical insight about why Jamie spends so much time engaging in this behavior.


To have an interesting and full life and to get a better idea of who you are, you have to try new things – even things you aren’t sure you will be good at doing. Annie seems to know this now. She’s 100% signed up for this sanctuary life, and I have no doubt she and her chimpanzee companions will continue to try new things, figuring out more about themselves and delighting and surprising us along the way.


Enrichment comes in many forms

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

We provide the chimpanzees at the sanctuary with a wide variety of enrichment to enhance their daily lives. The great thing about enrichment is how flexible it is!

Some enrichment (and often the most popular kind) involves food…
A forage helps exercise the chimps’ bodies and minds:


Enrichment can also have nothing to do with food…
A daily rotation of toys and other objects give the chimps new things to play with and look at each day.



Enrichment can be large and permanent!

Jamie on top of “Negra’s Cabin.” Missy, Annie, and Jody below.

Enrichment can be tough and durable…

Jody shakes a peanut out of a a boomer ball.

Or naturally sourced…

Annie licks peanut butter off a pine cone.

Negra nests in fresh straw.

While some enrichment might require a bit of money and assembly time to create…

Missy uses a tool in the treat rock to find peanut butter

Jody and Missy explore the towers on Young’s Hill

Other types of enrichment can be quickly created from recycled materials!

Hanging food stuffed in paper towel rolls is a free enrichment puzzle!

Jamie looks for peanut butter smears on a magazine.

Making enrichment for chimpanzees relies on a little bit of imagination and creativity. If you know someone who works with primates and would like to share ideas with us, please feel free to direct them to our enrichment database!

What Did the Chimps Do Today?

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

We had a lot of playful chimps today! When the humans arrived this morning we found Missy and Annie chasing each other, Burrito with a toy in his mouth ready to play chase, Foxie throwing dolls, Jody breathy panting, Negra giving kisses, and Jamie ready with a grooming tool for boots. Throughout the day there has been quite a bit of napping and nesting because it was really cold today. However, do not fret, the chimps have been very busy! Burrito has been running around with his scooter and Jamie has been reading books and stuffing trolls into paper bags. Check out the video to see a few more of today’s activities!

Planning and modifying

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

Jamie is an extremely adept tool user.

Keeping Busy

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

Jamie spent over twenty years in barren laboratory cages with nothing to do. These days, she is almost never idle…when she’s not playing with her chimpanzee friends or patrolling her two-acre enclosure, she invents projects for herself with the dozens of enrichment items set out for her each day.

Peanut butter in containers for evening enrichment

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

Evening enrichment puzzles are given to all of the chimps at the close of the day, when staff are finishing tasks before leaving for the night. Watch the video to see how Jody and Burrito use tools and their own creativity to get at the peanut butter in the bottom of the containers.


Salon time

Saturday, March 4th, 2017

This is the closest that J.B. has ever come to getting a manicure…



Jamie grooming JB


Jamie with tool grooming JB


close up Jamie intent grooming JB

Roses with dessert!

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Before caregivers close the chimp house each evening, we make sure to hand out or set up an evening puzzle for the chimps to work on. Yesterday, as the chimps came forward to get their peanut butter/banana filled PVC tubes, they each were offered a fresh Valentine’s Day rose to go with their puzzle.


Chimpanzees appreciate roses in their own unique way..


Several members of the Cle Elum 7, discovered a practical tool to scrape out the delicious contents of their treat tubes.

Clever Missy:

Fall in Love with Jamie

Friday, February 10th, 2017

The boss demands that you fall in love with her.

I have to admit that it took me a few years to fully appreciate Jamie in all of her complicated moodiness, but I truly love everything about her.

Jamie currently has 31 Pals. Will you Share the Chimp Love and be her new Chimpanzee Pal for Valentine’s Day?

Jamie’s Mission Today

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

If you are new to the blog, Jamie is our master tool user here at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest. When she has something on her mind, she tends to find just the tool to get the job done. Sometimes she finds small sticks and plants on Young’s Hill to use (the 2 acre outdoor enclosure), while other times she picks from an assortment of enrichment objects we give to the chimps.

Check out J.B.’s recent video blog post of the chimps using various tools at the sanctuary.

This afternoon, I was taking photos of Annie in the Playroom, with her leg up in the air, grooming herself. It was a quiet, peaceful moment, when all of the sudden, Jamie came running through the doorway between the Greenhouse and the Playroom. Her mission….

…yes, you probably guessed it. It was to get chunks of snow from Young’s Hill.

Once she dug at the snow, chunks came off and she brought them back to the Greenhouse to eat.