I’d like to say that I no longer think of the decades the chimpanzees spent living as biomedical research subjects in open slat cages the size of a bathroom stall, the last couple of years which were in a windowless basement. But I do. I’d like to forget the images of my friends’ familiar eyes peering out from between the bars that their familiar hands clung to. But I can’t. I wish I couldn’t picture them having spent their days – their years – with no enrichment, nothing to nest with, no room to rip and run and climb, unable to engage in natural chimpanzee behaviors and family relationships, or just be free to be themselves, however that looked. But these thoughts, and most importantly the chimps’ histories, are inversely proportional to the growth and expansion they demonstrate with each passing day, season, and year.
We are fast approaching the anniversary of the chimpanzees’ arrival to their sanctuary home eight years ago, on June 13th. Eight years! And yet every single time I see them foraging on the hill, climbing new structures and taking in unobstructed views, pushing their own comfort levels with such courage, grace and dignity, it takes my breath away. No matter how many times I see all these moments in each of their lives, it never for one second feels less than wondrous and breathtaking.
And this morning, one of now countless particularly beautiful mornings the chimpanzees have had here, was no different. As they foraged for breakfast al fresco on Young’s Hill, as they traversed seemingly every inch of every structure, their hair shining in the sun and blowing in the breeze, moving as a family, each step through the electrifying green grass another step further from their histories, my friends’ familiar eyes cast to the expanse of sky and valley and mountain beyond, I watched, my heart on tiptoe.
Burrito and Jamie:
Foxie and Annie:
Foxie and France Dora:
Annie and Missy:
Jamie taking in her new viewpoint from the new structure, Twister:
And then moving on to check out the view from Jamie’s Tower:
And not to worry, Jody and Negra were both at the far reaches of Young’s Hill foraging for breakfast with a side of wild greens right along with their family, but unfortunately my photos of those two beautiful ladies didn’t turn out.