Chimpanzees build nests when they go to bed each night, and sometimes during the day when they want to rest or play, and typically build a new nest each time. In the wild, chimpanzees construct arboreal nests, folding in the branches and leaves of the tree and making it into a bowl shape. Each individual sleeps in their own nest with the exception of mothers who share their nests with their nursing infants.
While in biomedical research, chimpanzees aren’t typically provided with nesting materials so they’re unable to meet this hard-wired instinct. I often recall a moving story Diana shared of when they first met the chimpanzees before their arrival to the sanctuary. She was spending time getting to know them and handed them small pieces of newspaper through the caging. Most of the chimps began using it to nest with straight away, particularly Negra and Jody. There’s no way to know whether Negra and Jody retained this behavior from their days as infants living in Africa with their mothers, or if they had been given materials to nest with at some point during their 30 years in the labs. Whatever the case, it’s always amazing to me that as soon as the chimpanzees are provided with the opportunity to engage in their natural behaviors, they embrace it.
Here at the sanctuary, we made the decision to offer the chimpanzees as many blankets as we could feasibly wash and dry each day. At current count, they receive at least 60 fresh blankets a day to nest with. Just like us, they love fleece blankets for their cozy factor, and at the same time they are easy for us to wash and dry quickly. As you can imagine, that is a whole lot of laundry to do each day! A few years ago, we were graciously gifted with a washer and dryer from beloved supporters, “The Wagmanagerie,” and they’ve been running like champs for pretty much 7-8 hours a day, 7 days a week. They were amazing despite the heavy demands placed upon them, but have definitely begun to show their wear and tear. So we couldn’t have been more thrilled when supporters Ross and Karen Barde purchased a brand new washer and dryer for the chimp house! And And they just arrived yesterday! Ross is also a chimp house volunteer so he’s no stranger to the mountain of blankets we wash each day.
Behold, the shiny and new gifts!!:
Each of the chimps has their own style, often weaving in favorite items or snacks, and some use more blankets than others. We have found as many as 20-25 blankets in one nest! Here are a few examples of nests we found this morning while cleaning so you can get a sense of how many blankets they enjoy using:
Negra’s nest in front of her sunny window overlooking the valley:
Jody’s nest with a guest:
Our new washer and dryer are a larger capacity and we were done with laundry a couple of hours early today. And you know what the best part about that is? Now we can give the chimpanzees even more blankets! I think Jody’s yawn from her nest says it all:
Ross and Karen, thank you from the bottom of our hearts, and the bottom of the chimpanzees’ nests, for your generous gift!! And as we continue to celebrate the gift of a week of sanctuary sponsored by Micheal in honor of Arlene’s birthday, we can’t think of better timing to be able to offer the chimpanzees even more comfort. We are so full of gratitude for all the support that allows us to make every day better than the last for these seven amazing and deserving chimpanzee people.