Posts Tagged ‘new year’

2010 Reflections

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

We staff caregivers (plus volunteer Denice, who works at the chimp house twice a week) all have so many favorite moments of 2010.

We have many other volunteer caregivers and supporters who add so much to the lives of the chimps. I encourage anyone to feel free to add your thoughts on 2010.

And in a couple of days we’ll do some more reflection (see post below) with our 1,000th blog post!

Best moments of 2010:

  • (from Sarah): When Burrito decided I was an acceptable playmate. Maybe it’s because that day was captured in photos, but I look back on that play session as one of my happiest moments with the chimps this year.
  • All of the amazing things that Jamie does – using tools, inventing new forms of locomotion and generally out-smarting us
  • The fabulous success of the auction – being in a huge room where everyone is in love with the chimps and willing to put their money where their love is – that’s so overwhelmingly powerful.
  • Watching Negra play chase.  So sweet!
  • Annie letting her guard down and playing with caregivers
  • Jamie sharing her night bag with Foxie
  • Every time Missy spots a caregiver from a distance and then just takes off, knowing that we’ll start playing a game of chase
  • Jody’s pure enjoyment of the grape wine vines – for eating and nesting
  • Realizing that Young’s Hill was really going to happen
  • Installing the chimp-proof glass windows (thanks to blog readers, LUSH, and anniversary fundraising donors!) and discovering the added enrichment of the windowsills
  • (from J.B.): We built the greenhouse without knowing how well it was going to work and we weren’t sure how the chimps would react to it, but on the first day that the greenhouse was open, Negra went right outside, built a big nest on the bench and stayed out there all day.
  • (from Denice): just yesterday, while serving the chimps breakfast in the front rooms, J.B. opened the door in the human hallway, letting in a big blast of fog. Jody saw it coming and lunged backward, then threat barked. When that didn’t do anything, she flailed her arms at it.


Biggest changes we’ve witnessed in 2010:

  • Negra playing tug-of-war and chase with humans and playing more with the other chimps
  • Burrito becoming comfortable in the greenhouse
  • Burrito brachiating
  • Annie becoming more confident and interacting more with caregivers
  • Foxie starting to touch enrichment other than troll dolls, including blankets which she’s beginning to use for nesting

I really can’t believe how far we’ve come as an organization and all of the changes that we continue to see in the chimpanzees. We ended 2010 ahead of our financial goals – that’s big news for such a young organization. I never thought we would be this far ahead and embarking on a major expansion – Young’s Hill – with just 2.5 years behind us. Every day I am in awe of everyone involved. The sanctuary, the chimps and the supporters that they attract have made me more optimistic than I’ve probably ever been. We all see big, big things for the future of the sanctuary and the future of chimpanzees in captivity.

As far as changes we’ve seen in 2010, I wanted to expand a little bit on Burrito brachiating and Annie gaining confidence.

The weird thing about Burrito’s new-found chimpness is that we didn’t particularly take note that he wasn’t brachiating until he started doing it. He’s an interesting guy. The way he seems to work is on a switch mechanism – he was really wary of the greenhouse for a while, until one day the switch turned on, and from that day forward he acted like being out there was no big deal. And he didn’t brachiate at all until one day the switch turned on, and all of the sudden he was brachiating regularly, as though he’d been doing it since day one.

Annie, on the other hand, is more of a gradual changer. In the past, she had rarely interacted with her human caregivers, except to greet J.B. in a very exaggerated fashion or to ask us for grass – NOW, please. And this is just fine. We don’t need her to interact with us if she chooses to ignore us. It’s up to her. Ideally, her social needs are met by the other chimpanzees. This year, though, especially within the last few months, she began slowly adding more interactions with us humans to her repertoire. First it was tickling the backs of our hands with her long nails, usually while she looked in the other direction. Then actual playing, eye contact, and even the occasional game of chase – with us jogging on one side of the fencing and her on the other. More recently, I’ve shared excited panting with her during the presentation of food. It might sound like a small thing, but it was huge for me to share that with her. Perhaps she’s seeing us differently now, trusting us more and accepting our friendship. Annie’s confidence and level of comfort seems to have also extended to her interactions with the other chimps. She’s much less anxious during meals and more likely to stand her ground if another chimp is eyeing her food. She still clearly adores Missy, but she seems to be less dependent upon Missy’s constant presence and her approval. I think Annie is the one to watch for the biggest changes overall since her arrival. Watching her transform this year has been a lesson in how much a (chimp) person’s environment can affect behavior.

Happy New Year, everyone!