Posts Tagged ‘chimpanzee sanctuary’

Negra Unleashed

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

A few days ago was the five year anniversary of the chimpanzees going outside onto Young’s Hill for the first time. For many of the chimps, it was probably the first time they had ever been outside in their lives, and it took some adjustment.

Out of all the chimps at the sanctuary, Negra has probably had the hardest time adjusting. On her first day out, she accidentally touched the electric fence and received a shock. For someone who was already predisposed to feel some anxiety at being outdoors after decades in lab cages, this certainly didn’t help. For several months after that Negra refused to step foot outside. Eventually she decided to try again, but she wouldn’t venture far from the greenhouse, and at the first strange noise or gust of wind, she would run back inside with a fear grimace on her face.

This year has been a turning point for Negra. This spring she started hiking straight up to the top of the two-acre Young’s Hill with no apparent anxiety to enjoy some of the wild greens growing up there. Today we set up a lunch forage on the hill and Negra headed outside with the rest of the group, calm and confident.

Welcoming autumn

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

Last night as the chimps were all curled into their nests for the night, I stood watching the last of the summer sun setting over the sanctuary. My heart beats a little faster during these moments, already pining for the passing beauty of one season, while leaping about in anticipation of the beauty to come.

After eight years in sanctuary, it’s been amazing to observe the chimpanzees beginning to make clear connections between the seasonal changes and favorite things to come. For example, the moment that the snow melted last winter they began running to the windows in anticipation to check their garden each day, seemingly hoping it would sprout up overnight.


As we welcomed the first day of autumn this morning, I found dear, sweet Annie sitting in front of the barn doors, enjoying the late morning sun and gazing out over the remainder of the chimps’ garden, seemingly lost in thought. I hope it was all the good thoughts:






Annie sat like this for several moments and at one point the breeze picked up and she just closed her eyes, letting it blow through her hair. And yes, my heart just melted:




Even Ellie, our wild and sassy neighborhood elk, was dozing in the breeze:


We’ve written about it before, but Annie is a different person after eight years in her sanctuary home than when she arrived. Having gone through many seasons of her own, it’s actually more probable that there is finally safe space for her true self to emerge, more at ease with the world around her, serene and comfortable in her own skin and able to hold hope and joy for what each day and season brings:



Happy autumn everyone (or spring, as the hemispheric case may be)!

This and that.

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

I caught Burrito practicing his suave and debonair look this morning.



But just for a minute. Then it was back to charming and adorable.


An Imperfect Life

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

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.





Tiny chimps

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

As soon as breakfast was over this morning Jamie was ready (and demanding) to go on her first perimeter walk of the day. If you got a chance to check out Elizabeth’s great blog post yesterday, you can see this is also the time we begin cleaning the chimp house. But Jamie makes sure we keep our priorities straight. So as Anna and Jamie headed off for a walk, most of the other chimps decided to join them (with the exception of the Queen who was enjoying her after breakfast nap in the greenhouse)! And so I headed out to our observation platform to take photos.

It never gets old seeing the chimps traverse their outdoor habitat, but it was a special treat to see them all on the structures together! They looked so tiny out there…

Anna, (top to bottom) Jamie, Jody, Burrito and Missy:


Annie, Missy, Jamie (at top) and Jody walking away with her treasure of found cattails:


Jamie, Burrito, Missy (Anna looks like she’s catching a piggy back on Missy, but rest assured she’s on the outside of the fence 😉 ), and Annie:


Meanwhile, Foxie and her twin Doras had meandered over to climb up Jamie’s Tower:


So tiny…Foxie on Jamie’s Tower (the top right hand of the photo), taking in the woods above the sanctuary (and our new property!):


Jody continued back to the greenhouse with her mouthful of cattails, making her way through the tall grass like a wild woman:





The others caught up with Foxie and reconvened on Jamie’s and Carlene’s Towers together. Annie standing below, Jamie on the ladder, and Foxie up top:


Jamie, Missy and Foxie:


Jamie made her way across the shaky bridge to Carlene’s Tower:




Burrito isn’t as sure of himself on shaky structures so he’s a little more cautious about traversing the bridge, but he made it across, brave chimp man that he is:


Diana cleverly stuck some cattails on top of the roof for Annie’s birthday a few days ago and somehow it’s gone unnoticed by the chimps. Until this morning:



Missy lucked out after Jamie left and found another one. The second she pulled it down a cloud of seeds blew across the hill:




All during the photo shoot, Ellie enjoyed her favorite morning spot stretched out in the shade underneath the platform I was on, or as I like to call it, the elk port:


A Day in the Life

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

9:00am: Up the winding driveway…


Good morning, sanctuary!


Ellie the elk started the day in her favorite spot under the observation deck:


Volunteer caregivers Denice and Sandra set to work preparing breakfast:


Usually when we arrive for the day this time of year there are several chimps outside in the greenhouse. Today it was just Negra cuddled under a blanket:


Soon breakfast was ready!


Our typical routine is to serve a small snack in the indoor front rooms first thing to entice the chimps out of the greenhouse so we can close it off for cleaning. Volunteer caregiver-in-training Yuri offered the chimps some grapefruit while I closed and locked the doors leading to the greenhouse.

Negra is not always a people person, but this morning as she ate her grapefruit she was feeling extra affectionate as she offered her back to Sandra for a knuckle rub and offered Denice a kiss.



We all checked the doors and locks to make sure it was safe to unlock the greenhouse:


and then got to work!


Afterward Yuri double-checked locks on the greenhouse door:


and we started the first batch of dirty toys soaking in the tub:


and the first load of dirty blankets in the washer:


Then Yuri served the rest of breakfast in the greenhouse:


and wrote in his training notebook:


Next we tackled the playroom, which is the largest indoor space at the sanctuary. We cleaned upstairs:


and downstairs:


and when we were done, set up a little tea party for the chimps:


While we cleaned the playroom, the chimps enjoyed the warm greenhouse.





We run through a series of safety checks before giving the chimps access to Young’s Hill each day, so I did those while Denice, Yuri, and Sandra wrapped up the playroom.


Foxie was the first to squeeze through the door to the hill as it was opening:


But she was quickly joined by Jody, Negra, Missy, and Annie:


Our last big cleaning task for the morning was the front rooms, which we started after a short break:


After some time outside, Foxie wandered into the playroom to spend some quality time with her dolls:


and Jamie requested a drink of water from the hose:


Since we had plenty of cleaners to handle the front rooms, Denice started on some kitchen tasks. She prepared some chow bags:


and put some potatoes in the oven for dinner:


After cleaning, Yuri and Denice picked some veggies from the chimps’ garden for lunch:



While Yuri served lunch in the greenhouse, Sandra kept the endless laundry moving along:


After lunch, it was finally time for some fun. Sandra and Jamie groomed in the greenhouse:


while Yuri and Burrito went for a walk around Young’s Hill.


After the walk, Burrito was in the mood for a little tug of war:


A little later in the afternoon JB, Diana, and Katelyn came up from the office and we did some PRT (Positive Reinforcement Training) with the chimps.

Missy presenting her wrist for Katelyn:


We ended the day with a dinner forage in the playroom. Jamie used a plate to collect her food:






And finally, it was goodnight.


A little more Birthday footage

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

Yesterday we celebrated Annie’s 42nd birthday! Today we bring you a bonus video from the bird themed breakfast forage party we put together in the greenhouse. Keep a lookout for an owl pinata, delicious fresh coconut, and a book about animals!

Annie Bird’s Birthday

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

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.

owl pinata


The theme turned tropical with coconut, watermelon (that’s tropical, right?), pineapple, and fruit smoothie. Plus some primate chow, which Annie is fond of:

coconut troll


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!)

bird book


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.

food tray

treat rock


Let’s get down to the chimp pics. You decide if Annie enjoyed our efforts:

Annie with chow

Annie with coconut

Annie coconut lip


annie with green onion

annie with green onion

Annie with lettuce 2

Annie with lettuce 3

annie with lettuce 1

annie in grass 2

Annie in grass

annie checking in treat rock


Of course the other chimpanzees appreciated Annie’s celebration too.

Burrito on a mission to find more food:

Burrito foraging


The coconut was a special treat:

hand holding coconut



Foxie with coconut



Missy coconut



Negra with coconut



Jody with coconut


But there were plenty of other treats to enjoy throughout the day:


Negra foraging:

negra sit in grass


Jody with leeks:

jody leek


Missy with a mouthful of chow:

missy in the grass


Jamie’s hand getting the plate of food from under the tub:

Jamie's hand getting plate



Jamie with a leek and cattail:

jamie leek

jamie cattail


The day ended with more treats – baked sweet potatoes and beets:

Erin serving

Annie eating beets


Annie thanks everyone for making her 42nd birthday a day of celebrating her favorite things and honoring how much we love her!



Happy Birthday, Annie!

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

Today’s day of sanctuary was sponsored by the chimps’ good friends, Althea and Ahmad Dani, in honor of beloved Annie on her 42nd birthday!

“Happy Birthday Beautiful Annie! May this joyous occasion of your honorary birthday be filled with all of your favorites; vegetables, green onions to your hearts content, forages on your beloved hill and lots of glorious playtime with your best friend Missy. Safe and secure at sanctuary, you will never, ever be alone again. Each day now reveals a different layer of your once forced upon suppressed and imprisoned self. Just in case you didn’t know, you are gentle and couragious; daring and captivating; intelligent and thoughtful. Sing loud and joyously dear Annie. A whole bunch of us love and care about you so dearly. Pant hoots to this beautiful and charming lady that we call Annie!”

Althea and Ahmad, thank you so very much for sponsoring today for dear, sweet Annie! We so appreciate all that you do to bring joy, comfort and love to the Cle Elum 7 and those of their children who are fortunate enough to be residing at other sanctuaries.

Beautiful Annie, Happy Birthday!! May your gracious, gentle and courageous heart be filled with more love and joy than ever today as we celebrate the amazing person you are. May your day be filled with shenanigans with your beloved friend, Missy, green onions galore, stretchy “waist-band” couture, and everything else that makes you happy. We love you so much!!


annie missy play wrestle


Annie close-up

On Patrol

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

One of the duties of dominant chimpanzees in the wild is to patrol the perimeter of their territories regularly to keep their group safe from intruders. Here at the sanctuary, Jamie leads the patrols. She’ll do it by herself if she has to, but she prefers to have a caregiver come along. Anywhere from a couple to a dozen times each day, Jamie and a human friend set off to systematically walk the perimeter of the two-acre Young’s Hill.

Today Grace, one of the chimps’ first volunteer caregivers at the sanctuary, returned for a visit after several years away. The last time Grace was here, the construction on Young’s Hill was not quite complete, so Jamie was eager for the opportunity to take a walk today with a beloved old friend. (Grace’s friend Colin, staff caregivers JB, Katelyn, and I, and Ellie the neighborhood elk went too.)

If you get motion sickness, you might want to skip this one. Otherwise, you’re invited to tag along on a stroll with this motley crew.