Archive for the ‘Sanctuary’ Category

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!

Foxie and her new favorite Strawberry Shortcake doll

Saturday, December 9th, 2017

This video shows Foxie displaying the many ways she gets enrichment out of dolls. She still melts our hearts with her unique and playful personality. What a joy to be able to provide a sanctuary home for her!


Dizzy with Excitement

Friday, December 8th, 2017

At Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, we encourage all of our staff and volunteers to communicate with the chimps in their language as much as possible. This means that we adopt a submissive posture when the chimps are displaying, we cover our top teeth when we smile during play, and we pant hoot with the group when they are excited.

This last one can be difficult, though. Pant hoots, like many other chimp vocalizations such as breathy-pant greetings and laughter, require rapid breathing – as much as 10 to 15 times the normal rate. One minute you’re singing along with the chimps, the next minute you’re passed out on the floor. How do the chimps get away with it?

One interesting theory involves laryngeal air sacs, which are inflatable extensions of the vocal tract in the neck and upper chest of chimps and many other primates. I worked with chimps for a while without even realizing that they had air sacs, and they only came to my attention because they are prone to infection (airsacculitis) and occasionally need to be treated. They’re not noticeable in chimpanzees under normal circumstances like they are in some other species. Interestingly, humans and a few other primates lack them altogether.

So what function do they serve? No one really knows for sure. The most obvious answer would be that they make vocalizations more efficient, possibly by increasing amplitude, matching impedance with the surrounding air, or lowering their frequency so that they travel farther through forest environments. But this doesn’t seem to be true in all species. Alternatively, they may allow smaller primates to sound larger than they are for the purposes of mating or territoriality – much like the way that male dogs attempt to urinate as high on a tree as possible. Whereas dogs tag trees to say WATCH OUT – VERY BIG DOG WAS HERE, perhaps monkeys are saying BEWARE – YOU ARE ENTERING GIANT MONKEY TERRITORY. But again, the evidence is mixed.

Air sacs are thought to be associated with a few species-specific calls such as the siamang’s “ascending boom” and what is perhaps the best named primate vocalization of all time, the gorilla’s “sex whinny”.

My favorite theory – which does not make it true, by any means – is that these air sacs allow certain primates to produce rapid inhale-exhale calls without hyperventilating. The sacs expand during exhalation, which means that they fill with CO2-rich air, and then they collapse during inhalation. What do humans often do when we are hyperventilating? We breath into paper bags to rebreathe our own air and restore CO2 levels (don’t try this at home on my advice, as it appears some more serious conditions can be mistaken for hyperventilation and made worse by rebreathing). Chimps, it turns out, have the equivalent of paper bags built right in.

Air sacs may very well serve different functions in different species, or even multiple functions within the same species. The above theories aren’t mutually exclusive. But it’s clear that humans get along just fine without them – well, humans that don’t work with chimps, that is. Our ancestors most likely possessed them, so why would they disappear? It’s possible that when humans evolved ways to modulate our breathing and produce multiple phrases with each exhale we lost the need for them, and because they are prone to infection, they eventually disappeared.

Which means that we humans have to temper our excitement around the chimp house or else we’ll end up passing out before the party has even started.

Two moments that brightened our morning!

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Negra enjoying the December(!!) sunshine on Young’s Hill:

And Foxie the Frost Forager:

Luckily this wasn’t a “Christmas Story” situation. No tongues were frozen in the making of these photos!

Even brisker mornings

Monday, December 4th, 2017

We have a stunning week of sun ahead of us in the forecast and even though the temperatures are progressively colder, the bright sun is filling everyone with adventurous spirits and joyful days. As Kelsi shared in her blog yesterday, even the Queen has been braving the chill to enjoy time outside.

Despite that, when I opened the door to Young’s Hill first thing this morning I couldn’t have been more surprised to see everyone literally racing outside seemingly on a group mission. Foxie and her doll headed straight for the nearest platforms where she proceeded to play stomp and shiver her way around with a mischievous look on her face.

Here she is mid-stomp:

Jody, Annie and Burrito wasted no time heading straight for the tire swings and it didn’t take long to realize they were remembering that the cold weather brings ice treats to be found in the tire swings! I love that they remember favorite things from each season now.


Burrito found some ice pieces Annie and Jody missed:

Annie and Jody heading back toward the greenhouse with their ice chunks (Missy foreground):

Annie headed to the greenhouse:

Jamie on her way back from the business of the morning:

Annie returned to the outdoors seemingly to just enjoy the view and the feel the elements:

After Jody came inside with her ice she immediately realized that Foxie was still outside in the cold and charged back up the hill to collect her. Foxie is an adventurous soul and declined Jody’s encouragement to return to the greenhouse (much to Jody’s dismay) and continued on her way checking things out, but she eventually made her way back:

It makes my heart sing to see how the chimps embrace their days and everything they discover within each one, how adventurous and brave they’ve become, and how, well, themselves they’ve become. Winter, spring, summer and fall, they show us a new season of themselves.

Brisk Mornings

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

Today was a beautiful brisk December morning, Jamie and I were on our usual perimeter walk. At the end of our walk I noticed Missy and Negra enjoying the warm sunshine beaming on Young’s Hill. Negra sat on a log watching Missy eat the little bit of snow left on the log, Negra then also took part in eating some snow! The Hill was pretty popular today even with the chill this morning, everyone made an appearance at one point. A little later, after I went back to the Playroom to help clean, I spotted Annie playing with the new mirror in the Greenhouse. Annie was being silly and flipping upside down and inspecting all the windows. Missy revealed herself from the cargo net near Annie, which made sense, Annie was trying to get Missy to play! It worked, they quietly played in the cargo net and I sneaked away so they could play in peace.


Missy eating snow:

Negra on the log & Missy eating snow:


Negra enjoying some snow:

Annie looking into the mirror:


Annie checking the window frames:

Missy taking a turn playing with the mirror (can you see her toes?):


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.

The Seven Reasons Why

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

The love of Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest donors never ceases to amaze me.

You all exceeded the $15,000 goal for Giving Tuesday, and there are still several hours left in the day, so I’ve bumped up the goal to $20,000!

I know why you’re so generous. It’s the same seven reasons that motivate me.


burrito sitting



annie in yoga pose



Jody in fall grass



Negra eating pomegranate



foxie biting dora








and their lives at the sanctuary:


Annie Giving Tuesday



Seventh Day of Thanks, Featuring EVERYONE and Jamie

Monday, November 27th, 2017

Today is the seventh day of thanks highlighting seven different donors and their seven ways of donating + the seven chimpanzees at the sanctuary!

For a recap of the first five posts, day one featured legacy donor Bruce Davidson + Burrito, day two featured event donor Kathy Cochran + Annie, day three featured recurring donor Julie Olson + Jody, day four featured challenge and competition donor Monica Best + Negra, day five featured wish list donor Vicki Fagerlee + Foxie, and day six featured major donor Karen Emmerman Mazner + Missy.

Today I’m featuring stock donor Joan Z., but I have a difficult time thinking about all of the donors that were not featured this week, so really today is featuring everyone.

Joan recently offerred to put up a matching challenge for Giving Tuesday by way of transferring stocks to the sanctuary, and I’m going to talk more about that generous challenge tomorrow.

Really quickly, though, I want to be sure that everyone knows that transferring stocks to the sanctuary is super easy. All the information you need is on the donate page, and you can just send us a quick email or give us a call to let us know when you are making the transfer.

There are potential financial benefits to you for transferring stocks rather than cashing them in (if you’ve held them a year or more). Talk to your broker about the details, but, in a nutshell, you can avoid capital gains tax by transferring stocks to nonprofits rather than cashing in the stocks, so you’re able to potentially give more to the sanctuary. Pretty cool if you’re in the position to be thinking about these things! Our current policy is to cash in the stocks when we receive them, so we get the donation within days. Big thanks to Joan and everyone who has donated securities!

I have barely scratched the surface of all of the ways that people give to the sanctuary! I could have profiled hundreds of people. I think that’s the beauty of Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest – each person finds their own way to support the chimpanzees and it takes everyone to give the chimpanzees the sanctuary home that they deserve.

Some people give their time by volunteering in the chimp house, as board members, or as event volunteers. Shawn, for example, is our first maintenance volunteer. He comes out on weekends and helps J.B. with all kinds of maintenance projects in the chimp house and around the property.

Others donate their professional services. Lori and Kathleen, who both live many states away, donate their graphic design services to create beautiful and compelling graphics for campaigns and events.

Some donors have arranged fundraising events on their own or asked their friends and family to donate to the sanctuary rather than give gifts for birthdays, weddings, and holidays.

There are a lot of ways to give! And most of you choose to give in several different ways. It’s a beautiful thing. Donors are the heart of what makes this sanctuary possible.

Jamie, the boss, can be hard to please, but I believe she would give a head nod of approval if she understood all of the ways that supporters contribute to her health and happiness and the long-term stability of the sanctuary. She plans to be around for many more years and demands that each day be a full one – as it should be.

jamie with boots

jamie with barrel

Jamie on fire hose


jamie inspecting trees

Jamie on twister

jamie givingtuesday


Sixth Day of Thanks, Featuring Karen & Missy

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

Today is the sixth day of thanks highlighting seven different donors and their seven ways of donating + the seven chimpanzees at the sanctuary!

Today I give thanks to major donor Karen Emmerman Mazner and I share some photos of the always busy Missy.

For a recap of the first five posts, day one featured legacy donor Bruce Davidson + Burrito, day two featured event donor Kathy Cochran + Annie, day three featured recurring donor Julie Olson + Jody, day four featured challenge and competition donor Monica Best + Negra, and yesterday, day five, featured wish list donor Vicki Fagerlee + Foxie.

We were thrilled to have Karen as our honoree at this year’s HOOT! gala, and she gave the best speech that explained why she decided to give a large contribution towards the Bring Them Home Campaign for Expansion. Here’s just a bit of what she said (it still gives me goosebumps):

If you’re a person who, like me, tears up when watching the videos of Foxie with her Troll dolls, Burrito being goofy, and Jamie bossing everyone around and you want more Foxies, Burritos, and Jamies to live out their lives with Troll dolls, goofiness, and bossing humans around then please join me in supporting CSNW’s efforts to bring more chimpanzees home to sanctuary.

I want more chimpanzees to know that their lives have changed for the better because they feel it in their new environment, in the people who care for them, and in the grass beneath their feet.  They feel it every time they say “no” and a human says “ok, your body belongs to you” instead of “I’m doing it anyway.”

Karen has put a lot of trust in us to fulfill our shared goal of providing a home for more chimpanzees. She knows that we’ve faced some headwinds in our efforts towards this goal. We were really hoping that 2017 would be the year that we would welcome more chimpanzees to CSNW, but we are okay working on a different timeline. We remain determined to do whatever we can to help the remaining chimpanzees in laboratories find their sanctuary home. We are eager to break ground for the Phase 1 construction of the expansion next year, which will benefit the seven chimpanzees already here in addition to preparing for more chimps. Karen’s donation will make that possible.


Missy seemed like an appropriate chimpanzee to feature with this post. She takes full advantage of all that the sanctuary has to offer. Obstacles simply do not deter her – she’ll find a way around them or just conquer them.

Young’s Hill, the chimpanzees two-acre habitat, was named after past major donors Karen and Don Young, who donated a large gift to get the hill construction started, in addition to other large gifts for other projects like the greenhouse and the veterinary clinic trailer.

Missy loves Young’s Hill. She especially seems to enjoy the first exploration of the day. I tried to get some photos of Missy on the hill yesterday morning. This is always a challenge, because she is usually a blur of motion. She ran, climbed, and swung from one structure to another – leaving virtually nothing untouched.

She would stop very briefly when she reached a destination, quickly survey her surroundings, and then leap away again to continue her exploration.