Archive for the ‘Grooming’ 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.


All is calm, and today is sponsored by Kery & Terran

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

Sanctuary friends Kery and Terran sponsored today, New Year’s Eve Day, with this lovely message:

“For the Chimps, the staff and the volunteers of CSNW. All is calm, all is bright. Wishing you much love and joy during this holiday season! Love & Gratitude, Kery & Terran”

We’re wishing you the same!

Here are some calm and bright moments with the chimpanzees from this year:


Jamie in her tunnel hideout:

Jamie sitting in tunnel


Negra sleeping while wrapped in a red blanket:

negra sleeping


Burrito and Missy grooming:

burrito and missy grooming


Do You Know?

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

Can you tell who is who? Today at CSNW we have a challenge for you! There are four pictures and we want you all to try and guess which chimps are in the photos.

A freckled face:

Two mystery girls lounging together:

And who could be under this blanket:

Someone holding a troll doll:


Additional photos just because!



Jamie nestled with a boot:

Jamie finally off duty:

And last one because who wouldn’t want to see one more:





Mirror Mirror!

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

Yesterday as we cleaned the playroom, we caught Jamie casually staring at herself in her new full length mirror. Possibly for quite some time…

Laying and Playing

Sunday, November 12th, 2017

Foxie and Burrito are two of our most playful chimps! So when we get the chance to watch them play, it is really quite fun. Foxie and Burrito began the morning with a post breakfast nap. After, a quick power nap they started a lazy game of wrestling which turned into a full game and then back to a lazy game. Below are some photos of the progression from napping to playing. Happy Sunday!

Foxie & Burrito napping:

Foxie & Burrito wrestling:

Stilling wrestling:

Back to laying and playing:

And a few extra photo for you all…

Annie’s silhouette:

Jamie holding one of her favorite boots:

Let the Festivities Begin!

Sunday, October 1st, 2017

Today was a perfect fall day at the sanctuary. It was chilly, but still warm enough, the leaves have started to change, and the air smells crisp outside. Fall is a favorite for us here at CSNW, especially because Jamie-ween is just around the corner. So let the count down begin! Today, to celebrate the first day of October the chimps enjoyed a pumpkin seed and dried apple forage with some nice warm tea. Later for dinner there was a special homemade treat, applesauce (or better known as mashed up apples). Our day was spent walking around Young’s Hill, grooming, napping, and savoring the last bit of the garden.

Sunflowers from our garden:

Negra napping outside in the Green House:


Jody peering out into the garden:

Little bit later Missy and Jamie enjoyed some kale:

And handsome Burrito:






Grooming with Missy

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

Missy is a “chimp’s chimp.” That means she likes to spend most of her time with her fellow chimpanzees rather than engage in a lot of human interaction. This is actually a great thing, and we encourage the chimps to spend more time with their group mates, rather than always looking for human attention. Ideally, we want them to form strong bonds and rely on each other for their primary social connections. For Missy, caregivers do come in handy occasionally for some grooming time (when all other primate partners are napping). Missy likes to grab a little piece of stick to groom herself with, while also receiving additional back grooming via caregiver. Of course, it’s also special to us humans when we get to spend a little quality time with Missy. She has a very busy schedule after all.

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


Planning and modifying

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

Jamie is an extremely adept tool user.

Close Grooming Among… Friends?

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

Last week, I witnessed an intimate grooming session between an unlikely pair – Jamie and Burrito.

We’ve written many times on this blog about the importance of social grooming among chimpanzees. Jamie is a bit unusual, well, in many ways, but in particular with grooming. She is not seen grooming the other chimpanzees very often, and they are not often seen grooming her. This is all the more unusual because of her boss (or maybe the more appropriate term is “bossy”) status within the group.

Her relationship with Burrito is not a close friendship. I describe Jamie as treating Burrito like an annoying little brother. They do hang out together, and sometimes groom each other, but usually not for long periods of time.

Jamie is most interested in the human activity around the chimp house, and she likes to groom her human caregivers, though she doesn’t usually request that we groom her in exchange. So, when I think of Jamie engaged in social grooming, this is what I picture:

Jamie with tool grooming JB


Last week, however, this is what I witnessed:

(Jamie on the left and Burrito on the right)

Jamie & Burrito 1


Jamie & Burrito 2


Jamie & Burrito 4


Jamie & Burrito 5


Jamie & Burrito 6


Jamie & Burrito 7


This went on for quite a long time. I’m not sure how long because, after taking several photos, I decided to quietly depart the area and leave them to their grooming.

Being a removed observer of these moments between the chimpanzees, when they are wholly engaged in their interactions with each other and do not care whatsoever what I am doing, is what makes me most happy as a sanctuary caregiver.