Watch and listen:
This Christmas Eve was sponsored for the Cle Elum 7 by friends and advocates of not only the chimps, but all our fellow animals, Kery Shaw and Terran Baylor! Kery and Terran give so much of their time and hearts to advocating for the well-being of animals and creating a compassionate world community. We are thrilled to start off almost a full week of sponsorships and celebration with their generous gift for the chimpanzees.
Kery and Terran, thank you so much for all you do to make the world a kinder, gentler, safer sanctuary for us all, especially for those who are most in need of it. Thank you for always holding the chimpanzees in your hearts:
Annie (bottom) and Missy (top):
Foxie and Dora:
Master Forager, Jody:
Negra picking wild lettuce:
And Jamie, Queen of her world:
Staff and volunteers have been like elves in the chimps’ workshop these last weeks processing all the incredibly generous and compassionate gifts pouring in for the chimpanzees, not only for the holidays, but for an even brighter future. From our hearts, thank you. Thank you. You have all given the gift of sanctuary and we are profoundly grateful to you.
However, you choose or don’t choose to celebrate this time of year, all of us here at CSNW wish you holidays and a season full of joy, hope, comfort, kindness, beauty and gratitude. Be sure to check in for the chimpanzees’ Christmas extravaganza tomorrow and have a magical Christmas Eve!
Today’s enrichment theme was “tea party” so we took that literally and made two types of tea for the chimps to enjoy after we had finished cleaning their castle.
Post-tea time was spent on important things like diving into the nesting position, staring at a troll doll, and some lazy play with friends. Watch the video with sound.
Who can resist being thoroughly charmed by these chimpanzees?
Today was a great day!
Way back in the spring, Charlie Nickerson of Troop 80 in Seattle contacted J.B. about doing his eagle scout project to help the sanctuary. We’re not able to say yes to all requests we get from people interested in doing volunteer projects like this, but we had just had a bunch of fire hose donated, so J.B. got Charlie started on the idea of making some fire hose hammocks to add to the interest of Young’s Hill.
A whole group of people joined in the hanging of the two awesome new hammocks, including other members of Troop 80, Shawn (J.B.’s new right-hand maintenance volunteer), John, and two CWU students – Ruth and Kyle.
It was pouring when they arrived this morning, so the chimps didn’t mind not having access to their outdoor habitat. The team worked outside in the wet weather with J.B. while volunteer Rachel and I cleaned up the chimp house.
In addition to the two new hammocks, the group also hung fire hose in various areas on the hill, connecting structures to each other.
Luckily, by the time they were finished with all of this manual labor, the weather had cleared up. So, the hardworking team spread a forage on the hill for the chimps and watched all seven chimpanzees forage for their lunch and explore the new features of their habitat.
I took what seemed like hundreds of photos of the chimps enjoying these new features and foraging, and I’ve narrowed down a couple of series to share in this blog post.
You probably know that we celebrate Jamie’s birthday on Halloween, which is just a few days away, but Missy might have thought all the new fire hose was a present just for her.
I am calling the below series of photos: “A Missy in Motion Tends to be the Best Thing Ever.”
Here is Missy standing next to Annie. Take a moment to admire Missy’s thigh muscles:
In her element, Missy tightrope walking and otherwise using existing and newly hung fire hose to traverse all over the hill:
Later in the day, Missy discovered some food cleverly hidden in new fire hose wrapped around a log post:
Every once in a while, she would stop to rest:
But not for long! Here she is climbing into one of the new hammocks:
I’d say it’s a hit:
This next series of Jamie I am calling, “Perfect Dismount”
A very cleverly hung piece of hose that Jamie couldn’t resist trying out:
Annie may have found her new favorite hangout:
Burrito explored a new hammock by himself later in the day:
And then he peeked at us from the lookout:
Thanks to everyone who helped make the day a great one, including all of you reading and sharing this – your support makes every day great!
Last month I wrote about “missing chimpanzee” Foxie, who has been doing a lot of solo exploring on the hill this summer. In May, Anna shared that Negra had been venturing out further on Young’s Hill than she had ever been before.
Well, we can add Burrito to this growing list of chimpanzees who have suddenly become more confident in the outdoor habitat.
As I was finishing up a walk with Jamie this afternoon, I came around to the front of the building and noticed the figure of a chimpanzee way up on the towers at the top of the hill. To my surprise, it was Burrito who was up there, walking across the shaky bridge, all by himself. I should mention that there was no food forage involved, so his motivation wasn’t tied to finding a snack.
I rushed up to the observation deck and got a few photos as he climbed down from the lookout and slowly walked back toward the greenhouse:
As I took these photos, I was grinning like a fool, and I called down to Burrito to tell him how great I think he is.
Like humans, chimpanzees experience varying degrees of anxiety and fear. In some ways, Burrito shows more anxiety than some of the other chimpanzees. It took him a long time to get comfortable in the greenhouse when it was first completed in 2010, even when the ladies were spending the majority of their time out there (read this blog post from Elizabeth from March 2010 and watch the video of Burrito finally making a breakthrough and spending some time in the greenhouse).
And now, this summer, five years after the chimpanzees were given the 2-acre outdoor habitat that we call Young’s Hill, they are still continuing to gradually embrace and explore their autonomy.
I wonder what they will be doing five years from now.
This year for Great Apes Giving Day, I decided to highlight Missy’s story. If you are new to Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest or haven’t been following every single blog post, you may have missed the story of how Missy almost didn’t make it to her sanctuary home. Take a minute to read this story on our Great Apes Giving Day page here.
There’s another story that we don’t tell very often.
The Cle Elum Seven should have been the Cle Elum Eight. There was an eighth chimpanzee living at Buckshire with Missy, Burrito, Negra, Jody, Annie, Foxie, and Jamie who died two years before the Cle Elum Seven came to Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest. He was a male chimpanzee and we believe his name was Ceaser.
I never met him, but I think about him, and what he represents, all of the time.
It is such an amazing time in history right now with the end of biomedical testing on chimpanzees in the United States. And it’s a frustrating time because there are hundreds of chimpanzees who are waiting for their opportunity to live out the rest of their lives in a sanctuary home where the only mission is to provide them with the best care possible.
And I know there will be chimpanzees like Ceaser who won’t have this chance because they will die before they are released from their laboratory life.
It’s a fact that not all laboratories are like Buckshire, where the Cle Elum Seven lived. Most modern laboratories holding chimpanzees have some sort of outdoor space, even if it’s a small concrete fenced in area, and most chimpanzees living in laboratories now live with other chimpanzees rather than in single cages.
I would guess that the majority of people who are directly caring for chimpanzees in laboratories really care for, and even love, the chimps. This may seem strange to those who have never met someone who works in a laboratory as a caregiver, but I have met many people who have held those positions in their past or still do now. Sometimes they didn’t really know what they were getting into, and they are awakened to the injustices of using chimpanzees in biomedical testing after they came to know the chimps in labs first-hand. Often they stay in those positions because they want to make a difference in the day-to-day lives of those under their care.
Philosophically, though, laboratories and accredited sanctuaries are worlds apart. How you view a person or an animal affects how they are cared for. For accredited sanctuaries, the one and only aim is to provide the chimpanzees with a good home full of choices and social interactions and the space to figure out who they are. For laboratories, even if they are not actively using the chimpanzees in testing, the chimps are valued and viewed in terms of their contribution (for which they did not give their consent) to humans and their research questions.
This is a fundamental difference; and it’s the reason why it pains me to think about the chimpanzees, like Ceaser, who will die in laboratories even though the research has ended.
And then I think about Missy, who almost didn’t have the last eight years of her life at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest.
Every day is about making sure that the chimpanzees in our care fully experience a life that’s all about them. It’s our moral obligation to try to give back to them at least some of what we, as a society, have taken. And we want to be able to do this for other chimpanzees coming out of laboratories.
This is why fundraising days like Great Apes Giving Day mean so much to us, and to other sanctuaries and rescue centers.
Please consider making a donation to Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, learn about all of the organizations participating in this global day of giving for great apes, and watch this Tuesday (October 4th) when the competition for the prize money heats up.
In the end, the chimpanzees and other great apes that you give your donation towards are the big winners.
In Negra’s alternate life – the one she should have had – she was born in the wilds of Africa, enjoyed a long, lazy childhood by her mother’s side, spent her days traveling with her group, climbing trees, and playing with friends, and grew up to have and raise her own babies and grandbabies.
In Negra’s actual life, she was born in the wilds of Africa, captured as an infant – probably after watching her family shot to make her capture possible – and shipped to the United States to be used as a research subject. She spent her days alone in metal cages no larger than a bathroom stall and experienced the world through filters of boredom, fear, pain, and loneliness. She had three babies in a five year span, all of whom were taken away from her within days or hours of birth, never to be seen or touched again.
Negra was about 35 years old when she stepped out of her last lab cage and into her new home at the sanctuary. That was a little over eight years ago. I sometimes wonder if there is some equation to represent the value of sanctuary to Negra and the others. Does one day in sanctuary cancel out one day in the lab? We can only hope.
Negra shouldn’t be here. She deserved to be wild and free. But her lot in life was determined by forces out of her hands, and out of ours. All we can do, and what we must do, is infuse her imperfect life with as much love and warmth and joy and comfort (and blankets and peanuts and sunshine) as we can, and then root for her as she steps toward recovery.
Today we celebrate Beautiful Annie’s birthday. For the breakfast party in the greenhouse, we chose to have a bird theme because of the bird noises that she, uniquely, makes when she is relaxing.
The theme turned tropical with coconut, watermelon (that’s tropical, right?), pineapple, and fruit smoothie. Plus some primate chow, which Annie is fond of:
Also included were headbands (on the decorative slinky below) because of Annie’s sense of fashion.
Her friend Francoise even sent a book from Canada for us to interact with Annie (I did, later in the day, but didn’t get any photos – we’ll continue to have fun with this book, I can tell – Foxie and Jamie were very interested in it too!)
Later in the day, for the lunch forage, we had some of Annie’s favorite foods: green onions, leeks, cattails, and romaine lettuce. And we included some roses from the garden, mini-peppers, and more primate chow.
Let’s get down to the chimp pics. You decide if Annie enjoyed our efforts:
Of course the other chimpanzees appreciated Annie’s celebration too.
Burrito on a mission to find more food:
The coconut was a special treat:
But there were plenty of other treats to enjoy throughout the day:
Jody with leeks:
Missy with a mouthful of chow:
Jamie’s hand getting the plate of food from under the tub:
Jamie with a leek and cattail:
The day ended with more treats – baked sweet potatoes and beets:
Annie thanks everyone for making her 42nd birthday a day of celebrating her favorite things and honoring how much we love her!
Negra is not normally a “greet the morning with gusto” kind of a person. Like myself, she is more of a, “can I please have just 10 (make that 20) more minutes of quiet before getting out of bed” kind of a person.
In the summer months, she changes her morning routine, though. Often before the humans arrive in the morning, Negra drags herself out of the nest she’s slept in on the catwalk or the loft of the playroom, and makes a new nest on top of the tall structure in the greenhouse.
For some reason, most of the other chimps remain in the building, which allows Negra to have some glorious peace and quiet and alone time before the ruckus of the day begins.
This morning, she even had a little snack leftover from the night enrichment the previous evening.
Being able to witness moments like this is what makes my heart burst out of my chest for the love I have for Negra and the gratefulness I feel for everyone who shares this love.
Maybe we could just have 10 more minutes?