Because of her extreme intelligence, Jamie is a hard chimp to enrich. But I am certainly up for the challenge.
As I know we’ve mentioned before, enrichment comes in many different shapes and sizes. It’s not just the toys, blankets, and clothing we put out each day. It could be the way they are put out, or what they decide to do with them that is the enriching part. It’s all about creativity, both the caregivers’, and the chimps’ themselves.
We put out new enrichment for the chimps each day, and we have an enrichment calendar to help keep things different and fresh. I try to update this regularly and to keep coming up with new ideas, either from volunteers, things I’ve seen at other sanctuaries, or more importantly, from what I’ve seen these chimps do, themselves. That, to me, is the most important part of being a good caregiver– knowing the individuals in your care. It’s truly a symbiotic relationship. And these guys inspire me each and every day.
The enrichment calendar can sometimes look like a joke to those preparing for the next day– “things that rhyme, aka Dr. Seuss Day”, “enrichment hanging from scarves”, “square things”, “troll heads in buckets”, “everything red”… A lot of it sounds crazy. But the point is not that the chimps particularly love “square things”, but to force us to “think outside of the box”, so to speak, and to shuffle around the enrichment that we have so that the chimps are always getting something new and different (we have A LOT of enrichment!).
Lately, I’ve discovered that if you leave the toys in a big pile (rather than scatter them), the chimps have a tendency to go through each and every thing- picking things up, smelling them, biting them, wearing them, etc… and that’s exactly what happened today.
At some point, she decided to wear the apron that friends Margaret and Karen recently gave her, and has been wearing it all morning. While wearing it, I even caught her briefly sweeping up some nut shells with her hand!
I have to say it is very rewarding when you come up with an idea that actually entertains and even inspires the chimps to do something interesting with it. Today, I felt like I got a big pat on the back from Jamie.