Our blog generally has snippets of the chimpanzees’ day – a few minutes of time caught on video or in photographs. I know a lot of folks are curious about what a day in the life of the sanctuary is like, so here is all about yesterday, in somewhat abbreviated form (believe it or not). Grab something to drink, because this is a wordy post. I’ll post some photos later.
First things first: Jackie, volunteer Deb W. (who has been coming all the way from San Francisco a few days per month for a year) and I carry out the morning routine: saying good morning to the chimps, getting new daily checklists and meal charts ready, making smoothie, seeing if the front rooms need spot cleaning, preparing fruit to serve, checking phone messages, etc. Meanwhile J.B. prepares for a volunteer work party scheduled for today. Elizabeth and Sarah? – day off! Burrito is pretty riled today (displaying and making lots of noise) and we speculate about whether it could be because Jamie is at full swell, which sometimes increases tension in the group.
Breakfast: Jackie is training on Level IV/Lead Caregiver – a staff-only position which includes operating the pneumatic doors and being in charge of all things related to the chimp-house. So she and I go in to the human hallway in front of the front rooms and invite the chimpanzees in for breakfast. Jody, Jamie, Burrito and Foxie are usually first in and ready for food. Negra, Missy and Annie are the wild cards – sometimes they prefer the quiet of the playroom over the excitement of a meal. This morning Missy didn’t even make a move to come in – she had probably decided hours ago she was going to skip it. Annie hesitated at the door, monitoring whether Missy might change her mind, then went out to join Missy in playing hooky from breakfast.
If all of the chimps had come in, we would have closed up the front rooms and cleaned the playroom, but we’d have to wait until lunch for our chance to clean the playroom today. Instead, Jackie closes off the outdoor area so we can clean that up. Before opening the outdoor area, Jackie and I both do checks – two people always check all doors and verify where the chimpanzees are before opening a human door to enter a chimp area – we never go in with the chimps, and we take a lot of precautions to make sure nothing happens due to human error.
Deb is one of our few volunteers who have gone through our level III/chimpanzee care training, so she serves breakfast while Jackie and I are outside. Breakfast included smoothie, some pretty delicious looking apricots, another fruit that I don’t remember, plus vitamins, chewable probiotics, the mandatory peanuts (for Negra), and the offer of primate chow (we offer chow at breakfast and lunch – some take the full serving of 10 pieces, and some choose not to.)
Mid-morning: By the time Jackie and I had finished picking up the outdoor area, scrubbing the spots that needed it, putting out some toys and buckets of water, the chimps were done with breakfast and volunteers had started to arrive for the work party. Jackie opened some doors and let all of the chimps have access to the playroom and the outdoor area, closing off the front rooms and doing checks again. Jackie then went to help with work party tasks, while Deb and I cleaned the front rooms. Because it was Saturday, we did an extra-thorough scrubbing of the front rooms then disinfected every surface. I noticed that Jamie had the bikini top over her neck again (she was wearing it yesterday too).
After cleaning and setting out a few blankets, some toys and some cardboard boxes, Deb got busy with laundry and washing the enrichment that we had removed from outside and the front rooms. I looked outside and saw several work party volunteers doing all kinds of stuff – LOTS of weeding, mowing, spreading mulch, and creating a spot for an herb garden right outside the kitchen.
At one point, I went into the human hallway area, and Missy spotted me from the playroom. She looked at me and then bolted towards the outdoor area. I ran and met her on the hill and we played chase for a little while.
Jessica, our board president, and her friend Lisa came by and dropped off a bunch of enrichment that Jessica’s co-workers had given her for the chimps on her birthday. We all went up to say hi to the chimps. Foxie tossed a troll doll to me and I threw it back, but apparently did a terrible job of calculating my aim, and it ended up on the roof where Foxie couldn’t see it. So I went inside and got a few more troll dolls, one I tied to a necktie. I gave Foxie the necktie troll and she was satisfied. About 10 minutes later I noticed that Jamie had it around her own neck.
Pam brought by a giant sandwich for the work party crew (without Pam we would be eating peanut butter and jelly, with Pam we eat roasted vegetables with oilve and sun-dried tomato tapanade). The work crew were much appreciative of her cooking.
Deb made some amazing treats for the chimps to enjoy another day – containers with pieces of watermelon and grapes and a few fun toys, filled with water and put in the freezer with long straws sticking out. Burrito watched Deb intently work while clinging to the caging in the playroom.
Lunch for the chimps: Deb got lunch ready: raw onions cut into wedges, mini bell peppers that Connie had bought on her way to the sanctuary, and seven bananas all assembled on a tray for easy carrying. Jackie opened up the front rooms for the chimps and everyone almost immediately came it – Missy was first! This was good because it meant that we could now clean the playroom. Jackie secured the doors, we did checks, and Deb started lunch. Jackie and I entered the playroom, picked up all of the enrichment and blankets from the day before, then started the spraying, scrubbing and squeegeeing of the playroom (there is a zen-like aspect to squeegeeing a warmed concrete floor, in my opinion). Deb joined us when she was done serving and we got it done pretty quick – under an hour. We checked all of the window locks and set out the day’s enrichment plus a whole bunch of blankets and sheets. I decided to move the hanging bumper ball from the play room to the outdoor area, then we were ready to close up, check locks and let the chimps in. It was about 1:15 and all of the big cleaning was over for the day.
Afternoon: Jackie went back out to help J.B. and the work party crew with pulling weeds and hauling wheel-barrows full of mulch to spread, I did some work on the computer, and Deb cleaned the enrichment from the day before that we had removed from the play room. Volunteer Andrea arrived and Connie, who had spent the morning volunteering outside, came in to do some chimp house volunteering. I quickly sent Connie on an errand to buy a cherry pitter in Cle Elum and Andrea washed produce that had been picked up at Safeway and some beautiful greens that Connie had bought on her way to the sanctuary.
While I was at the make-shift desk that is next to the enrichment storage in the human part of the building, I heard some screaming from the playroom. Screams are not unusual – chimps get into small skirmishes pretty frequently. I listened and the screams increased in intensity with more voices joining in, so I went out to see what was going on. All of the chimps were screaming and running around and Burrito was displaying, although it didn’t appear that he was a main part of the conflict. Deb had been watching and said it started with a fight between Foxie and Missy, which may be a first! Foxie is generally not an instigator . If Burrito is not involved, it’s usually Jamie and Jody who begin fights. Once they start, though, pretty much everyone gets involves (except for Negra, who sometimes hides out until things have calmed down.) I took some photos of the end of the conflict which I’ll post later. A lot of conflicts involve no actual contact or very minimal contact between the chimps, but you wouldn’t guess that from all of the screaming. If Missy and Foxie had made contact with each other, Deb said it was really brief and just some minor slapping – nothing like the full potential of what chimps can do to each other when they are fighting. The screaming and posturing lasted several minutes, then everyone settled in their respective places and got on with the day. Jody and Foxie laid down on the lower level of the climbing structure outside and stuck their heads in the buckets filled with water, drinking calmly.
I walked around the other side of the outdoor area and noticed the troll doll that I had accidentally thrown on the roof was lying on the ground outside of the caging – one of the chimps must have been able to reach it through the ceiling bars of the outdoor area and knocked it off. I tossed it back to Foxie, hopefully making up for losing it earlier. Deb was able to get some interaction time in with the chimps and I went back to the computer.
Connie came back with the pitter and tried it out on some cherries that Deb had picked in her last ten minutes before she had to leave to go back home. It worked okay, but we really need one that can handle a lot of cherries – does anyone have a recommendation? The cherries are ripe now! Connie and Andrea decided to incorporate a few of the pitted cherries into the dinner that they made – oatmeal with a blueberry pancake on top, and a cherry on top of that.
Dinner: Jackie shut off rooms three and four of the front rooms and she and I put the bowls into the rooms , saving a couple in case Jamie tooked way more than her share (a common occurance). The chimps, particularly Negra (pancake-lover), Burrito and Jody (love just about any food) watched carefully and food grunted as we were setting out the pancake oatmeal meal. In addition to the exciting treat, Connie had prepared the greens she had brought – giant leaves of three different kinds of greens layered and tied with a bit of curling ribbon so that Jackie could serve them. Everyone was quite excited about the many-layered greens except for Foxie, who just doesn’t like most greens or many other vegetables.
While Jackie was serving, I opened up the now vacant playroom, spot-cleaned, and put out more blankets for the evening while Andrea finished up the last of the dishes and Connie pitted more cherries in the kitchen. While I was in the playroom cleaning up, I heard the familiar sound of Negra clapping for her night bag. Jackie must have responded pretty quickly, because the next sound I heard was the crinkling and ripping of paper bags being opened.
After locking up the playroom, Jackie let the chimps back out so they had access to all areas for the night and could chose their nesting spots. Then, for the humans, there were evening chores to do – the nightly safety checklist and log, making sure all of the daily tasks had been checked off, and other closing-up procedures. Jackie and I said goodnight to the chimps and we all left the building. I was amazed at how different it looked outside! Dakotta, Dave, Jackie, J.B., Kristi, Connie, Vicki, Lisa and Rachel got a lot done!! Pictures to come….