Posts Tagged ‘chimpanzee sanctuary’


Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

Some of the most important things we can provide the chimpanzees are choices. The choice to explore their outdoor area or to nest inside. The choice to play with their chimp and human friends or nap. The choice to play with enrichment or ignore it. The choice to stay in one area or not when we are trying to shift them for meals or cleaning. The choices are many and we particularly love it when the chimps take it upon themselves to engage throughout the day in what they find interesting as long as we provide the options.

Choices relieve the inevitable bouts of boredom these intelligent, curious and active people experience at times being in captivity. And choices of how the chimps wanted to spend their moments and days was not something they often received prior to living in sanctuary. Yes, they are still in captivity and ultimately, the humans control their environment and schedule, but we do our very best at all times to work cooperatively with the chimps and give them choices at every possible opportunity. We want the chimpanzees to feel as much as possible that they finally get to call the shots. And really, they do.

These photos will hopefully provide an idea of how the chimpanzees choose to spend their days, in snippets:

Negra, dozing in the morning sun in the greenhouse when I first arrived:


Foxie and Dracula troll enjoyed a toothbrush while waiting for breakfast:


After breakfast, Burrito headed up Young’s Hill to climb one of the structures:


He is exhibiting a fear grimace here (notice it looks very similar to a human smile, but means quite the opposite for chimpanzees – when chimps smile they only show their bottom teeth). Burrito sometimes fear grimaces when doing new things on the hill until he feels more comfortable. He may be feeling a little nervous as he courageously walks out to the end of the plank:


Feeling more comfortable back on the platform:


Jody wasn’t far behind Burrito, but decided to survey the area for some wild greens instead:


Success! And she decides to head back to the greenhouse:


Annie chose to head straight for the new structure and enjoy a little quiet time and the view from Carlene’s Tower:


Missy decided to take the swinging bridge over to the other side:



Jamie decided to join Missy on Jamie’s Tower, but climbed the pole as opposed to taking the “simple” way up of the ladder:



Foxie joined Jamie a bit later:


While all this was occurring on the hill, Negra changed nests and took a post-breakfast nap:


Back inside later in the day, Jamie was thrilled to find one of her favorite enrichment items out – her “kitchen sink” filled with water and paper towels at the ready. She immediately wiped her nose:


And washed and dried her hands:


In between lunch and dinner the chimps also enjoyed checking out their growing garden and sampling some fresh peas and green onions, playing chase and grooming with caregivers and each other, cooling off with an ice cube snack, and napping throughout the day. And Jamie went on to check out new boots and enjoy an evening of walks around the hill while the other chimps headed to bed in the cooler playroom after dinner.

Annie, utterly relaxed:


As caregivers, continually providing the chimpanzees with new and interesting options of how to spend their time is one of our biggest challenges. And seeing them utilize all their options and sometimes create their own, is one of our biggest joys. And hopefully, one of their biggest joys as well.

Burrito enjoys his lunch

Monday, June 29th, 2015

One of the unfortunate aftereffects of the anesthetic drugs Burrito received for his exam last Friday is that his stomach has been a little upset. For a guy who normally loves food above all else, this is the ultimate cruelty.

Luckily for Burrito, and for all of us who love to watch him love his food, his nausea seems to have all but disappeared. Here he is enjoying his lunch this afternoon. Turn your volume up and listen for his periodic low moans of contentment.

Dora hitches a lift

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Much to our dismay, we reportedly have an extended heat-wave headed our way. But this afternoon we took advantage of overcast skies and a cool breeze and the chimpanzees enjoyed a lunch forage on Young’s Hill.

A great thing about forages is that it gives the chimpanzees enrichment for the rest of the day as they will all typically venture out throughout the day to see if anything was missed. Foxie decided to make a second pass and her good friend, Dora, came along. But Foxie ran into a challenge making room for carrots AND Dora.




Foxie and Dora had a lot of ground to cover, so Foxie stopped and tossed Dora on her back. Chimpanzee mothers carry their young on their backs when on the go. Foxie mimics this behavior and often carries her dolls on her back, but while it’s particularly endearing and easy to read into, your guess is as good as ours as to why she actually does this. Regardless of her reasons, it’s pretty adorable.



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After such a long hike, Foxie and Dora came back to take a nap at the top of the greenhouse (you can just see Dora tucked in Foxie’s hip in the background).


The gift of Annie

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

For weeks, no, months, I have had the idea to do “A Day in the Life of…” each of the chimpanzees on the blog. Seems simple enough, right? Well, when you consider each individual chimp, their moods and varying preferences for being photographed (let alone being followed around all day by a photographer), not to mention all the things that can occur during a day working in the chimp house, it’s not as simple as I’d envisioned. Case in point: Annie. Attempting to be systematic in my approach, I’ve wanted to start with her. Beautiful, dear, sweet Annie, who doesn’t always prefer to have her photo taken or is often running at mach speed with her best friend, Missy. So my idea keeps getting pushed to the back burner of the blog.

But I’ve found myself thinking of Annie a lot these past days because her son, Virgil, (who resides at Save the Chimps) celebrated his birthday this week. Annie gave birth to her first son, Tobias, when she was just a child herself, probably a mere 9 years old. In the wild, chimpanzees typically have their first child around the age of 14. But being used in the labs as a “breeder” Annie was forced to begin breeding with many males starting at the age of 7. All for the purpose of supplying more chimpanzees for biomedical testing. Over the next decade, Annie gave birth to six more babies – Abby, Petra, Brooke, Virgil, Mariah and Damien. Two of her children, Virgil and Mariah, who both are so fortunate to be living at Save the Chimps in Florida, are her only living offspring. Tobias (Chimp Haven) and Damian (Save the Chimps) were also fortunate to have made it to sanctuary, but have sadly passed away. Petra, we believe, passed away while still at New Iberia Research Center (NIRC), and sadly, we don’t have much information on Abby or Brooke, but believe they have passed away as well.

Annie was never allowed to care for her babies for more than a few days. In each case she was anesthetized and her children were taken from her and moved to the nursery to be raised by humans until they were, themselves, used as lab subjects. Chimpanzees are highly invested in the raising of their children, much like humans, and under natural circumstances chimpanzee mothers will nurse their infants until they are 4-5 years of age. Their bond is incredibly strong and often remains so throughout their lives.

One of the things I love most about looking at photos of the chimpanzees’ children, are seeing their mothers in them. In the gaze of their eyes, their smiles, the way they hold their body, or even certain mannerisms. To see that even though their histories are tragic, their mothers are there with them in some way. I love seeing beautiful Annie in her son Virgil (photo credited to Save the Chimps):




Annie’s history is devastating. To revisit it, however briefly, takes the breath out of me every time. Annie’s history is not unique to the chimpanzees residing here, nor is it unique to all chimpanzees who have suffered, or suffer still from a life in biomedical research labs, entertainment or the pet industry. But I choose to revisit it today not to feel sorry for her, but to celebrate her. To pay honor the incredible person she is. The internal strength and resilience of spirit that speaks to who she really is. Her ability to find joy in her life each day, to increasingly overcoming the sometimes debilitating anxiety she demonstrated when she first arrived here, and her finding enough comfort in her own skin to enjoy peace and solitude.

Annie’s ability to do these things never excuses what was done to, and stolen from, her. But she is not a victim. She is a strong, intelligent, resilient, sweet, gentle, loving soul. A sweet soul who took another step away from her past this morning and for the first time (with me) flopped on the floor and asked me to tickle her head and ears, laughing all the while. This amazing chimpanzee woman is a gift to us all. It’s a gift for her to be able to share herself with us and for us to be able to witness her healing. But more importantly, it’s a gift for her to live her life in peace, and to be her amazing self, each moment of every day. And none of this would be possible without you.

So in celebration of Annie (as she enjoys a tea party):



And goodnight from Annie, yawning from her nest at the top of the greenhouse. Out there all on her own, her eyes growing heavy as she looks out over Young’s Hill and the summer breeze occasionally ruffles her hair:


Learn more about each of the chimpanzees’ history on our Eyes on Apes page and celebrate the amazing and unique individuals they truly are.

Lunch with the chimpanzees

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Most meals at the sanctuary go remarkably smoothly considering we have seven hungry and eager chimpanzees to serve at once. Occasionally, someone swipes someone else’s food or a scuffle breaks out, but more often than not, peace reigns.

That’s not to say that all the chimps always wait patiently, though. In this video, you’ll see some of the ways the chimps get our attention during meals and tell the server to please hurry up – hand clapping (Negra), vigorous head nodding (Missy), and blowing raspberries (Foxie). This video is longer than most of the ones we post, but hopefully it will give you some idea of what it’s like to be present at mealtime at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest.

Just another day in sanctuary

Friday, June 19th, 2015

There has been a whole lot of napping going on in the chimp house today. Well, at least for the chimpanzees. Our recent high heat is taking a break and though it’s still warm, the wind has been cool and refreshing. We were thinking the chimpanzees should be out on the hill enjoying the comfortable day, but they had other thoughts. And really, how nice is it to enjoy napping peacefully on a warm day with a cool spring breeze blowing through the house?

Jamie fell sound asleep while we cleaned the playroom, but made sure to keep one foot on her recent gift of new black cowboy boots from the chimpanzees’ (and humans’) good friend, Tony Garza:


Jody fell asleep in a sunbeam in the greenhouse:


The chimpanzees often hold their feet as they sleep which I find so endearing:


Annie, who has taken to nesting next to Negra in the afternoons (though Negra was in a darker spot that didn’t photograph well, she was nesting just to the right):


After a brief forage in the play room, Jamie decided to take another nap in front of the barn doors, her hair (and the trolls’ hair) blowing softly in the breeze:


Though the other chimps were in unfriendly photo spots, Missy was tucked away in a cozy nest in the loft, Burrito was sound asleep on the catwalk with a rainbow slinky in his mouth, and Foxie was in a sunny corner of the greenhouse playing “toss the Dora.”

Just another day in sanctuary. And another day with our hearts full of gratitude.

Burrito and Becca

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

Burrito can’t get enough of playing with his human friends. This afternoon he kept volunteer caregiver Becca busy.

Today is in memory of Jean Davidson

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

Today’s day of sanctuary was sponsored in memory of Jean Davidson. Today’s sponsor shared this lovely message about her gift for the chimpanzees:

“Jean was a wonderful friend who lived to celebrate her 100th birthday. She loved animals, and would have celebrated the seven chimpanzees I’ve fallen in love with!”

To our sponsor, thank you so much for thinking of the chimpanzees in honoring Jean’s memory. I think we would all hope to be remembered by our friends and loved ones in such a thoughtful and meaningful way. It’s incredible to think about the difference each life makes. The people one person can bring together in the most unexpected ways and whose life continues to make a difference to so many, even after they’ve gone.

In celebration of our sponsor, her dear friend, Jean, and of course, the chimpanzees, it seems fitting to revisit the joy that can only ensue with Burrito’s patented “Blanket Fling”:









There’s nothing to see here

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

Burrito and Foxie are great friends and spend much of their time together, usually grooming, playing, and engaging in general chimpanzee shenanigans. Although Burrito is the big, blustery male of the group, he relies heavily on his tiny cohort for comfort, reassurance, and even protection when the going gets tough with the other ladies (i.e., Burrito’s blustery drive-bys and outbursts get them riled up). But that’s what good friends do.

We spotted the two of them in the front rooms this morning just as Burrito was play-biting Foxie’s toes and naturally, had to try for some photos. In typical Burrito and Foxie (and well, chimp) fashion, they immediately stopped what they were doing, and merely offered the paparazzi blank expressions, as if to say “Keep moving, there’s nothing to see here.” I have to say I like the synchronized avoidance of the camera though.










Happy Birthday, Julie!

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

This day of sanctuary was sponsored by Karen Olson, in honor of her sister, Julie, on her birthday! As you may recall, Julie just sponsored a day for Karen’s birthday! Karen shared this lovely message about today:

“My sister Julie is one of the most caring people I have ever met. As soon as I shared the story of the Chimp Sanctuary with her she immediately became a fan and supporter. She has very much enjoyed our two trips to visit the sanctuary and follows the blog daily.”

Happy Birthday, Julie! We hope you have a day of celebration filled with all the love and joy you and Karen help provide for others. Thanks so much to both of you for including the chimpanzees in your lives while making a difference in theirs. The love and respect you two share for one another is touching and inspiring. It can’t help but bring to mind two other very special ladies, best friends, Missy and Annie:

Missy chase Annie