Posts Tagged ‘chimpanzee’

Summer in December

Friday, December 19th, 2014

We set out a chow forage after cleaning the greenhouse this morning, but for some reason only Burrito went out when I opened the door. That was fine with him.

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After breakfast, Missy and Annie sat in the doorway to Young’s Hill, trying to decide if it had warmed up enough yet to go out.

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Jody was the first to go out. At first she seemed a little uncomfortable, but as soon as the sun came out she began to relax.

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Jamie and Missy immediately set off around the hill.

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Annie came out too, clutching her blankets.

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Foxie hung out with her troll in her usual spot on the lower platform.

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This is downright balmy weather for Central Washington in December and the chimps seemed eager to spend as much time as possible outside.

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Everyone but Negra, of course. She took her time finishing her apple from breakfast and then made her way back to bed.

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Later in the day, a light mist started to fall, but Missy and Jamie kept at it. We are at walk number six now, and there’s plenty of daylight left. Got to take advantage of this weather while we can.

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Roasted pears on snow, a delicacy

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

‘Tis the season for roasting and baking foods for the chimpanzees! They’ve had baked sweet potatoes almost everyday this week and they LOVE it! Food squeaks echo throughout the chimp house when they see the caramelized glaze on the potatoes. Yum! We’ve been experimenting with roasting some other foods, too, to mix things up a bit. Beets, carrots, and pears have all been a huge hit.

Today volunteer Sandra and I baked some pears with the plan to put a couple out as a forage after we cleaned the chimpanzees’ playroom. Here’s the before and after shots:

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I turned off the oven well before we were done cleaning but the pears were still pretty hot when it was time to set up the forage. So we came up with a nice way to cool them off—use them as a topping on some snow!

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Sandra filled bowls up with fresh snow that fell this morning and scattered bits of roasted pear on top. All the chimpanzees huddled around the door as we set up the forage, pant hooting and food squeaking with excitement.

Jamie did not hesitate in grabbing as many bowls as she possibly could. Luckily we scattered many bowls around so everyone got to have a few, but Jamie got the biggest haul. It also helped that she used a box as a collection device. She pulled her box around and added bowls to it as she went through the playroom, as a sort of shopping cart.

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Once she had collected everything she could, she sat down to enjoy her snow and roasted pear snack.

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Ebola and Great Ape Conservation

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

There are many questions about how this year’s Ebola outbreak started, how it spread so quickly, and how to prevent it from spreading further—but what does Ebola have to do with non-human great ape conservation?

It is known that Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever is transmitted by coming into direct contact with bodily fluids of someone infected and showing symptoms of the virus, a cadaver of someone who died from the virus, or the fluids or meat of an infected animal.

Bushmeat is the meat of any non-domesticated animal that is consumed by humans. In Africa, bushmeat is not only consumed locally, but it is exported worldwide. Many bushmeat species are endangered, in which cases the hunting of those species is illegal. Still, these animals are hunted, and their meat is sold on the black market and exported to other countries, including the United States. No one really knows just how many pounds of illegal bushmeat are smuggled into the U.S., because it is believed only a fraction of the imports are confiscated—but estimates range from hundreds of thousands to millions of pounds per year.

While habitat loss is the largest long-term threat to African ape populations, hunting for bushmeat has risen in the last couple of decades as the most significant immediate threat—and could cause species extinction if the practice continues to grow. However, with the emergence of the deadly Ebola virus, more people have begun to tune into the problem. Though research shows that fruit bats serve as hosts to the Ebola virus and are believed to be the direct source of the current outbreak, consumption of infected ape meat has been linked to previous outbreaks since the late 1990s. Primates and other animals can become infected by eating half-eaten fruit that have come in contact with fruit bat saliva, and the virus is passed to humans who eat infected animal bushmeat.

The Ebola virus can also be detrimental to wild ape populations. In 2002, over 5,000 gorillas died from an outbreak. In fact, the threat of imminent Ebola outbreaks (and other pathogens) on already dwindling populations has prompted researchers to propose developing a vaccination for the apes. Before vaccines could be administered to wild apes, however, some researchers feel they would need to be tested on captive apes. As we know, there is a push to end the use of chimpanzees in research altogether, so the topic sparked a debate earlier this year (read more on that here).

The Ebola scare has also left African sanctuaries in a predicament, such as Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Sierra Leone—one of the affected countries.

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The travel limitations and general panic about the disease have kept people away from the country, and the lack of outreach opportunity has hit the sanctuary and others like them hard. Additionally, with travel restrictions in the affected countries, it is harder for volunteers to help with the day-to-day work. The sanctuaries have had to hire more local staff, causing their funds to be stretched thin. Recently, the Chimpanzee Conservation Center in Guinea has been impacted by this trouble as well. Thankfully, no apes in sanctuaries have contracted Ebola, and all the caregivers have been taking extra hygiene precautions to make sure everyone stays healthy.

Though the direct threat to great apes from Ebola is reason for concern, it’s possible that the attention on Ebola could have a positive impact on ape conservation and help prevent future outbreaks in human populations. Unlike other pandemics and deadly pathogens, which are able to sustain in human populations long-term, Ebola is a unique virus in that it comes and goes sporadically in humans in the form of destructive outbreaks. So far these outbreaks seem to have originated from human contact with infected wildlife. With effective education in local communities, and efforts to take legal action against logging, prevention of hunting and eating bushmeat can save countless lives—of both human and nonhuman apes.

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A Little Adventure on Jamie’s Boots

Monday, December 15th, 2014

Volunteer caregiver-in-training Liz and I were walking around Young’s Hill with one of Jamie’s favorite boots not long ago. When we rounded the last corner of the hill, on our way back to give Jamie the boot, Liz spotted a patch of mud and decided to stick the sole of the boot in the mud “To put a little more adventure on it.” As soon as we went inside, we headed straight for where Jamie was so that she could have some time inspecting and grooming the boot.

Ever since that day, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. We’ll never really know why it is that Jamie insists that volunteers and staff walk around the outside of the Young’s Hill fence (always wearing or carrying a boot or two), while she patrols from inside the fence. Perhaps it’s because it’s just more fun to have company come along, or maybe she feels that she is “leading” the patrol if there is someone else with her. But, maybe it’s because she wants to have a little piece of “adventure” from the other side of the fence; her bit of freedom from the other side.

Whatever the reason may be, we are always happy to join her on her walks around Young’s Hill. The photos are from Jamie’s third walk around the hill today.

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Here is what the boot looked like after the first part of the walk.
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This the boot after the entire way around Young’s Hill with plenty of adventure on it.
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Jamie just as I was presenting her the muddy boot.
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Off-balance or perfect ten?

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

We’ve had some beautiful, sunny, blue sky days this weekend which is unusual for this time of year, and Jamie is certainly taking advantage of it. Diana and Jamie went on at least six walks yesterday! Missy joined a couple of times, but of course opted to run at full speed while Jamie kept to more of a saunter.

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Then Missy decided to sprint toward the log bridge as if it were a vault, and she appeared to lose her a balance a little bit. Or maybe she meant to hurdle herself in that way, and it was actually an intentional landing. So, the question is, did Missy lose her balance or did she totally stick that landing? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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Keep away

Friday, December 12th, 2014

This morning, I caught Missy in a rare moment of stillness.

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But not for long. Suddenly, she stood up and began scratching vigorously with both hands.

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Chimpanzees display self-scratching behavior when they are physiologically aroused. It’s thought that the scratching may be a response to sensations in the skin resulting from autonomic processes like piloerection (hair standing on end). In other words, something excites you, you involuntarily get goosebumps, and in turn you feel like scratching your skin. Often this occurs during times of stress, like when a subordinate male sits next to a dominant male. But sometimes the arousal is positive, like when Missy wants to play.

After scratching, Missy ran over to Foxie, took one of her trolls, and ran away across the shaky bridge.

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Foxie doesn’t like to walk on anything that feels unstable, so the best she could do was to climb up to Missy’s level on the platform.

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Missy wanted to keep the game going, so she ran back to Foxie and sat on the end of a beam.

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And then, when Foxie wasn’t looking, she disappeared down the ladder.

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Missy ran over to the tunnel, tempting Foxie come rescue her troll.

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Foxie didn’t respond, so Missy climbed atop the grassy mound, teased Foxie one last time, then took off up the hill.

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That did the trick.

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Foxie used to get anxious when the other chimps took her trolls, but now she enjoys it. In fact, she doesn’t even try to get them back right away. Allowing her friends to hold onto her dolls while they play chase is Foxie’s way of keeping the play session going.

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Missy took that as a cue to make the game even harder. She climbed back up where the troll would be tantalizingly out of Foxie’s reach.

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Again, Foxie did her best to get close to Missy.

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But after a while, she’d had enough, so she placed her one remaining troll on her back and headed back towards the greenhouse, perhaps hoping that Missy (and her troll) would come along too.

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Only Missy wasn’t following the plan.

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Foxie went back, but Missy was now holding her troll on top of the termite mound – another object that she doesn’t like to climb on.

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This game wasn’t fun anymore.

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Foxie had to resort to the only sure fire way to get her troll back: whimpering.

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Missy, being a good friend and knowing that Foxie was upset, ran after her to return the doll.

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Outtakes

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Today Missy was combing her hair and I grabbed the camera and took a series of photos. They all turned out blurry and dark. Here are a few of the better ones:

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On a typical day, we take dozens of photos of the chimpanzees. The vast majority of these are deleted. Our photos have improved in quality by leaps and bounds over the last six years – partly due to better camera equipment and partly due to practice – but I would say that 90% of the photos we take on a given day are pretty bad. They’re blurry or the lighting is poor or someone’s eyes are closed. The chimps themselves often don’t help matters either. They love to spend their time high off the ground and in other places that we photographers just don’t have easy access to.

Negra’s favorite spot is in front of this window on the playroom catwalk. Because of the light coming in from the window, she is usually backlit. She is also typically covered up in a blanket. Not great photo conditions.

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This is the only line of sight to Jody’s preferred spot:

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The playroom loft is another favorite of the chimpanzees. Here’s Annie kicking back, well out of camera range.

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In the greenhouse, the chimps love to hang out on the highest platform. This photo of Jamie is a pretty good depiction of how much we can see of them when they’re up there:

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And certain folks rarely sit still long enough for us to get a clear photo:

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From scrawny to brawny

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

When the chimpanzees first arrived at CSNW six and a half years ago, they were frail, weak, almost sickly ghosts of themselves. Through the years we have seen their once physically and mentally deprived selves transform into thriving, healthy, and fit chimpanzees full of personality.

The other day Jamie was sitting on a step in one of the front rooms and it struck me how strong her thigh muscles have become from her daily perimeter walks. It’s really very impressive!

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She’s really come a long way. These photos from the first days in sanctuary really highlight her fragile, atrophied leg muscles.

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In this photo you can see not only how scrawny and skinny her legs look, but also how much she plucked her hair from her belly while in the lab, likely due to sheer boredom:

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Sanctuary has provided Jamie the opportunity to patrol her territory, stretch her legs, and keep her mind active. Her life now is full of so much enrichment—both for mental stimulation and physical activity—that she doesn’t get as bored as she used to.

Of course, captivity is not perfect and Jamie still does pluck her belly every now and then, perhaps because it became a habit but also possibly due to periods of boredom. No matter how great we make her environment, we can never recreate the life she and all captive chimpanzees should have had in the wild. But for Jamie, the next best thing is taking walks around Young’s Hill while her caregivers follow along on the other side of the fence—always with at least one of her favorite boots, of course!

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Ever the Charmer

Monday, December 8th, 2014

I know it’s best to avoid speaking in absolutes, but I believe it is actually impossible not to love Burrito. He’s a blustery, macho male chimpanzee with equal parts little boy charm. For all his swagger, he has a certain vulnerability that is so endearing.

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Rain, snow or shine

Sunday, December 7th, 2014

I’m often asked if the chimpanzees go onto Young’s Hill when it is raining or snowing. The answer is yes, they still venture outside, although I think we can all agree, sunshine is probably preferred.

As I’m writing this, Jamie is on her fourth walk around the hill (it’s currently foggy and sprinkling). And she wasn’t the only one to venture outside. Burrito, Missy, Jody and Annie joined her on the hill for a little while after lunch despite the fog and rain.

Sometimes the chimps go out to gather a “snowy treat,” as you will see in the some of the following photos.

It seems that no matter what the weather brings the chimpanzees still choose to go outside.

Annie

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Burrito

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Jamie

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Missy

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