Posts Tagged ‘primate rescue’

Bouncing Back

Monday, August 10th, 2015

Burrito’s been through a lot lately. In early June, he fractured a canine. The injury itself didn’t seem to phase him, but in order to prevent future pain and infection, we needed to extract the tooth. In late June, we performed an exam to do some blood work, check on his heart condition, and assess how he would do under prolonged anesthesia. And in late July, we performed the extraction.


Before he came to the sanctuary from the research lab in 2008, Burrito was sedated for procedures pretty frequently. The routine nature of these “knockdowns” probably didn’t diminish the fear associated with them. Until Burrito’s tooth ordeal, we’ve been incredibly lucky that none of the chimps here have required medical intervention beyond a dose of antibiotics here or there.


When you care for former lab chimpanzees, you hope that they know they’re safe now, and that they trust the difference between their current home and their former ones. We’ve spent the last seven years working to gain these chimps’ trust, and one nagging fear is that something will happen to lose you the trust you’ve earned.


Regardless of the fact that Burrito was surrounded by friends who love him and who want the best for him, it’s likely that the two procedures he had to undergo recently brought back some scary memories from his past life. And regardless of the fact that we’ve seen firsthand how incredibly resilient and forgiving chimps can be, it’s still hard not to fear that you’re going to push things too far and damage the relationships you’ve built.


But we shouldn’t have worried. Burrito has bounced back to his sweet, goofy, mischievous, happy self. His love for the simple things in life – a ripe avocado, a good grooming session, a long and loud bout of chase with a human friend – is as strong as ever. May we all strive to be as irrepressible as this guy.


A New Friend for Burrito

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

This morning, new staff caregiver Anna showed up at the chimp house with a giant stuffed gorilla for the chimpanzees. Stuffed animals have a sad history at the sanctuary; the chimps tend to either ignore them or tear them limb from limb. Stuffed animals that resemble apes or monkeys, in particular, don’t often live long after the chimps get their hands on them.

So we were surprised and delighted by what transpired this morning…

Serious face

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

Yesterday, Elizabeth posted this great blog about Jamie—if you missed it, definitely check it out.

Normally, I try not to post about the same chimpanzee two days in a row, just to keep things varied, but I took some photos of the Boss today and couldn’t resist putting them on the blog. Jamie was just chillin’ in the greenhouse this afternoon, demonstrating her serious face.

After I took these photos, she came down to take a look at them. She seemed to approve, so I figured they were good to go!







The favorite spot

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

As I was walking around Young’s Hill with Jamie the other day, I was thinking about how she’s created a trail for herself (JB does mow the grass down during the summer, but there’s still a beaten path where Jamie walks several times a day) and it reminded me of when I visited the Louvre in Paris many years ago. One of the stairwells had worn down on one spot on each step because so many people walked that path every day. The favorite spot. I’m not really sure why I was thinking about that, but maybe because it’s just another way chimpanzees and humans are alike—we find a path we like taking, and stick with it.

The favorite spot phenomenon doesn’t just apply to pathways, but also places to rest or eat. Jamie has a few favorite spots, depending on the activity at hand. For her morning snack in the front rooms she likes to sit on her barrel in room 2, and she almost never strays from that spot for that activity. Foxie and Burrito both like to sit up on the lazy susans, and Negra will sit on a blanket just below.

Missy, Jody, and Annie all sort of move around during meals, but they do have favorite spots for resting. Annie and Missy like the catwalk by the bridge—it’s a popular spot for grooming. Negra has two favorite spots—her summer spot in front of one of the catwalk windows, and her winter spot in the middle of the loft. Jamie likes to rest in the corner of room 3 against the fencing, or near the playroom door. And Jody likes the bench in room 4—as we’ve dubbed it, “the portrait studio” because it has really great lighting. We have lots of photos of Jody lying down in this spot, both snacking on browse like cattails or bamboo, and taking a quick nap in a blanket nest.

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Jody nesting


Whatever it is that motivates us to find our favorite spots—they represent comfort and safety, which is something that is so valuable for ex-biomedical chimpanzees. This is their second chance at life, and what better way to spend their day than in the comfort of their own home.

Watch the video below to see more ways the chimpanzees find comfort in their sanctuary home, and please Share the Chimp Love!

Morning Play

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

This morning, Foxie was clearly feeling playful – stomping around the playroom and doing somersaults. Jamie noticed this, approached Foxie, and swiped one of Foxie’s beloved dolls. (Jamie knows this is a surefire strategy for initiating play with Foxie.) Jamie’s move kicked off a long game of wrestling and doll keep-away.)

A wonderful Christmas time

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

The chimps (and the humans!) have been having a really great Christmas, thanks to all our amazing supporters! We had five people sponsor the day for the chimps today, so we owe a big thank you again to Laurel H., Kathleen K., Molly W., Michael H., and Janine B.

Also a huge shout out to Lisa S. and Jayne R. for their decorations that we were able to spread across yesterday‘s and today’s parties! Carol M. sent us seven adorable chimpiñatas which we added to the decor, too. More thank-yous are in order for everyone that sent in new toys which became presents for today’s celebration, including Sharon & Larry C., Diana M., Lisa S., Jayne R., and Helen K. Here’s part of the haul in front of Santa’s sleigh:



Volunteer Patti and supporter Anne also picked up a lot of yummy fresh produce for the party and Patti made amazing roasted pumpkins with quinoa, wild rice, and veggies.


The day began with a small forage of tomatoes, pistachios, and shaved coconut in the tree. Negra was the first out to see what we had set up under (and in) the tree.




Missy snagged most of the tomatoes, and went through the presents, too:


The party then moved into the playroom, where all the food and presents from our friends near and far brought a lot of joy to the chimpanzees!























As if those photos weren’t enough, here’s a video of the festivities of the day. Thank you again to everyone who has helped bring such happiness to the chimpanzees this Christmas and every day!

Saving Dora

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Foxie has an interesting relationship with her dolls. She almost always carries at least one with her, and we wouldn’t think of putting out the enrichment for the day and not including a handful (or several handfuls) of trolls and Doras. As much as Foxie likes having her dolls with her, she also doesn’t mind being separated from them – temporarily. She’ll toss one to a caregiver, or Jamie will swipe one to entice Foxie into a game of keep-away. But Foxie almost always reaches a point where enough is enough and she wants her “baby” back.

Today a Dora doll was stuck in a toy and Foxie was determined to get it out.

After awhile, Foxie had had enough and grew increasingly upset. With one final pull, she freed Dora, and then screamed at the offending toy for good measure.

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:



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!


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.



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





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.




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.




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!


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


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:


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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