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!
Amy M says
What a gorgeous, gorgeous post.
Don’t leave yourselves out of the equation. You guys are the catalyst — for the chimps and for us. It’s your work and who you all are that has brought everyone together and unleashed all of this good. Thank you and happy new year to everyone there!
Awww – thanks, Amy! Happy New Year to you too.
Amy M says
And I have to add that it’s especially thrilling to hear about Annie.
Kat Morrell says
When I read your recollections of the small steps and progress that the chimps have made since arriving in Cle Elum 2 and a half years ago, I can’t help but think of The Little Prince. Ever so slowly and patiently allowing the chimps to feel comfortable. Giving them many compelling opportunities to interact….but letting each one take the lead in their own time. You meet them where they are at…..and then give them the opportunity to go a little bit further….try a new fruit or experience…..And they have blossomed and relaxed, and started to LIVE again. And we get to witness their “beingness’ and their personalities…and the interconnected web of all of us Great Apes.
I don’t know why I am so touched by these animals and the work you are doing…but indeed I am touched and humbled and grateful. I can’t believe how many times I have teared up while reading the bog or had a great big belly laugh watching the antics. My family thinks I am nuts as I make them watch yet another chimp video. Your use of technology keeps me connected and present in the lives of the chimps. Thanks for all that you do and thanks for sharing the lives of these precious beings with us.
I love this comment, Kat. Thank you.
I remember listening to an audio version of The Little Prince on record when I was young.
Sharing the lives of these wonderful creatures over the past two and half a years has been a pure joy. Watching each of them come out of their shell and become chimps again touches my heart deeply. No matter how bad I feel these wonderful chimps will lighten my heart by just watching them. They are the best kind of therapy for stress and worry. Thinking of what they have gone through and come out of it forgiving and happy gives us all hope that we can overcome the hardships in life. They are truly very special and if I couldn’t see their progress or just watch them play it would be a devastating loss for me.
For me I think the changes we have seen in Foxie have been remarkable over the last few months. She is more willing to try new foods offered to her. Foxie is a friut kind of gal and really doesn’t like anything green. One day while serving celery for lunch not only did Foxie take the celery but she ate it. Normally she would not take it and if she did she take it she would flick it back at you like “get that out of my face” I was shocked and pleased she was enjoying a new food.
The changes in the use of enrichment has been suttle but non the less note worthy. She is actually picking up and playing with other items other than her troll dolls. She is still not seen without her beloved trolls but now other items are with her.
For me to watch Foxie starting to use blankets to nest with is heart warming. In the past she was adamant she wanted nothing to do with a blanket to nest with and would push them away and then go through her phantom nesting ritual. I watch her move a blanket and was all smiles as she lowered her little butt on that blanket. A couple of days later she was moving a blanket towards her and was using nesting actions with it. Pushing the blanket around her and adjusting it to her liking. We have seen her laying on a blanket something that in the past she would never do.
I’m so excited about the changes this new year will bring for the CE7.. and so very proud to be associated with this organization and all who support it.
marie cross (uk) says
thank you all so much for sharing your wonderful memories , its a real privilege to be able to share in all your achievements at the sanctuary xxxx
When I was volunteering last week, Annie have me a huge kiss on the wrist. I was shocked. And so, so happy! That unexpected show of affection from her was definitely one of the best moments in 2010 for me. I feel a sort of kinship with Annie (I can be a late bloomer in new situations, too), so watching her grow more confident and social is just really amazing. There have been a hundred other fantastic moments as well. Watching the goal get met at the auction was up there too. And Neggie play bouts. And seeing Jamie concentrate deeply on new projects. And Burrito laughing hysterically with Foxie. I could go on and on…
I believe everything that is happening with the chimps is HUGE, they endured so much before they came to the sanctuary. It is comforting to know that their caretakers love and care for them so much, they would not of progressed where they are without you. I envy you, I would love to be a caretaker….