Happy 3rd anniversary to the Cle Elum Seven and happy birthday to Negra!
Before we post about the party that’s happening this evening for the chimps (we know you’re looking forward to party photos!), we wanted to share with you, from our perspective as staff members, what we’ve learned from the Cle Elum Seven chimpanzees and Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest these past years. We wrote these independently, but you might pick up on some common themes.
If you want to know a little more about who we are – take a look at the recently updated staff page.
From Sarah (Executive Director):
The Cle Elum Seven have taught me what’s important and what’s not. Play is important. Rest is important. A cozy bed, friends and family, respect. Good food. Alone time is important. What’s not important? That traffic jam, those weeds in the garden, that two-hour long meeting, that rude guy who cut in line at the grocery store. In the world of the Cle Elum Seven, none of that matters!
Negra has taught me that it’s never too late. Taken from the wild (and probably her mother), slapped in a cage for 30 years, held in solitary confinement, poked, prodded, darted. In her shoes, I’d be angry and lost. But not Negra! She’s always beautiful, quietly confident, knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to tell us when we’re doing it wrong, and takes pleasure in little things like sunshine and peanuts. And seeing her play – there are no words for how special that sight is! It’s never too late to play.
From J.B. (Director of Operations):
Negra doesn’t ask for much. All she seems to need in life is a pile of fresh blankets, a warm spot in the sun, and a steady supply of night bags.
Night bags, of course, are a nightly ritual here at CSNW. After dinner, the chimps each receive a paper lunch sack filled with a small handful of nuts, seeds, dried fruit and other healthy snacks. It’s something that Diana and I picked up while working at the Fauna Foundation, and it has been part of our routine here from the beginning. After three years in sanctuary, Negra has eaten approximately 1,095 night bags. You’d think she’d be sick of them by now. But you’d be wrong.
Think of the happiest moment of your life – that brief period of joyful anticipation when you realized that the thing you had always wanted was about to come true. That happens to Negra every night.
Negra eats dinner the way that a kid finishes her brussels sprouts so that she can have dessert. Dinner is but a means to an end for her. After she scarfs down what she considers to be enough to satisfy her caregivers, she begins clapping for the wait staff to fetch her the good stuff. When we return with the night bags, Negra breaks into an ear-to-ear grin – not a smile, but a full fledged chimpanzee grin, an expression that is reserved for intense fear or excitement. The grin is accompanied by a vocalization that is a cross between a food squeak and a scream, but it’s all straining and no voice, like the sound can’t find a way out.
Then comes my favorite five seconds of the day. At the moment when you pick up Negra’s night bag to give it to her, a calmness sets over her. Her ears go back a little and her face relaxes. Her gaze fixes upon the bag and nothing else seems to exist in her world. After waiting an agonizing 23 hours and 55 minutes, she finally has a night bag again, and for a moment everything is right with the world.
I don’t know how she does it. How do you maintain that level of excitement over something so mundane? Maybe, after a lifetime in the laboratory, you learn to appreciate the small stuff. Or maybe she just has a rare hereditary peanut addiction. In any case, Negra reminds me to never take anything for granted.
From Jackie (Development Coordinator):
I’ve learned so much from the Cle Elum 7, it’s hard to even know where to begin. I’ve learned to laugh, to play, to love, to enjoy my home, to enjoy time with my friends, to relax, and to appreciate all that I have, rather than to dwell on what I don’t have. The chimps’ forgiveness of us humans astounds me and inspires me to let go of the past and to move forward in my day to day life. Negra, above others, has shown how one can move forward from past experiences. The nightmare she lived for so long before coming to her sanctuary home saddens me to no end. I remember when I first came to CSNW, she didn’t trust me (or anyone, for that matter). She still had many signs of PTSD, including threat barking and poking at us when we moved towards her to offer our wrists (even when she initiated it by sticking her lips out of the cage, asking for a kiss). It took her a while, but I haven’t seen her do that in a long time, which to me, says so much about what sanctuary means for her. She has learned to trust us and is more comfortable in her home… and that is what sanctuary is about. And to me, after all she has been through, there truly isn’t anything more special than a kiss from the Queen.
From Elizabeth (Volunteer Coordinator):
From Jamie, I’ve learned to speak up when I disagree with something.
From Missy, I’ve learned that a sense of humor can get you through just about anything.
From Burrito, I’ve learned to forge ahead, even if you’re out of your element.
From Annie, I’ve learned to always expect surprises.
From Foxie, I’ve learned that it’s never too late for a second childhood.
From Jody, I’ve learned to be serious about comfort.
From Negra, I’ve learned the importance of being unapologetically oneself.
From Diana (me, Director of Outreach):
The Cle Elum Seven have taught me unconditional love. I love each of them so much for who they are and who they are becoming.
My love for Negra was immediate – I’ve had a big soft spot for her ever since I met her at Buckshire. She and I get along well, but she’s not someone who interacts with humans that much, and I’m probably not on the top of her list of favorite people. And this is totally okay. I really appreciate this about the chimps’ sanctuary lives – they can do what they want, like who they choose and just be themselves. Pretty much everything Negra does endears me to her more. I really admire her for knowing what she wants. I have learned the importance of routine from Negra. My favorite Negra routine is when we show her the little bowl of nuts on the breakfast tray. It’s there every morning, but every morning we have to show it to her in order to get her moving for breakfast. Most often, once she sees the nuts, she throws off the blanket she has around her shoulders, lets out an excited food squeak, and comes downstairs. It’s a ritual that makes me so happy.
This past year, I’ve learned the most from Annie. Though chimpanzee hierarchy can be a bit fluid and definitely more complicated than a strict linear hierarchy, it was clear that Annie was at the bottom in terms of ranking within the group. I’ve known other chimpanzees in the least dominant position before. Low ranking chimpanzees that I have known often choose to spend time by themselves and seem to be anxious a lot of the time, particularly when interacting with others. From my perspective, they often overreact in social situations which can cause a cycle that seems to reinforce their low ranking status. I think the same scenario plays out in human social groups (both kids and adults). To be honest, I thought Annie would be in this least dominant position in the group possibly forever. I’ve never witnessed the lowest ranking individual successfully and calmly begin to assert themselves. I do not pretend to know all of the nuances of chimpanzee behavior or all of the subtle dynamics of the Cle Elum Seven. No doubt there’s a lot going on that I’m not aware of, so I don’t know what caused Annie to change. But I do know she has changed dramatically. She doesn’t overreact as much anymore and she asserts herself when she wants something and even during conflicts. We’ve been joking about how one day she might be the leader of the group, but perhaps it’s not a joke at all. From Annie, I’ve learned that anything is possible and everyone can change.
From all of us:
It’s not just the chimpanzees who have taught us these past three years. We’ve learned a tremendous amount from you, the supporters of Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest. We’ve learned that your generosity is boundless, your energy is contagious, your ideas are brilliant and your dedication is unmatched. Perhaps most importantly, we’ve learned to update the blog regularly because you are as hooked on the Cle Elum Seven as we are.
Oh my, J.B. What you wrote about waiting and excitement transfers so directly to humans. If only I could do as well as Negra.
Thx for those thots. And thx for the rest of you for passing along things that we can all learn from these beautiful chimps.
Catherine M. says
Thank-you everyone for sharing your experiences. My day isn’t complete until I see an update from CSNW or get to watch a video. I can hardly wait for the next big step in the lives of the Cle Elum 7.
Deb Durham says
My heart smiles for these very special individuals. It was such an honor to be part of their celebration yesterday. I am humbled by their resilience, by their forgiveness, by their tenacity. And I am deeply grateful to all of you for the love and care you show them each day. Hats off to everyone who listened to their hearts and believed “If we build it, they will come.” Thank you for these first three years.
Kathy Haydel says
I want to say Happy 3rd Anniversary to all of you . I also want to say Thank all of you for these post. I know I love them and I love the pictures. I do appreciate them because I know you guys are busy taking care of these beautiful 7 creations of God. I know you guys love them and respect them.That means a lot to them and to me as an animal lover. After reading this post, I feel you have really made us a part of your day. It helps us to understand and feel like we are there experiencing the same things you are. I am so thankful for that. May God bless all of you . Your guys are angels to the chimps. Where would they be if they did not have this sanctuary. We are all truly blessed for all of your hard work , effort and dreams that did come true for these magnificent 7 wonderful creations of God. Hugs , kisses and love to all of you.
What a beautiful post, all of you – thank you so much for your insights and for everything you do to make our beloved chimps’ lives so wonderful, at last. Congratulations on three amazing years, and many more to come. Your insights and observations enrich our understanding of the chimps (and, life in general I think) and your compassion is an inspiration that we carry forward. Cheers to all of you, to the Cle Elum 7, and especially to dear dear Neggie who touches us all. Look at that face!
Love and light,
marie cross ( uk ) says
thank you so much to you all for your beautiful posts , i hope you all know how much happiness you have brought to all your blog follows just by being happy to share your day to day life at csnw , its wonderful to be part of such a beautiful family and to watch the magnificent 7 develop day by day , i agree with Catherine , checking up on the daily activities at the sanctuary is to me just like phoning or meeting up with family and freinds and seeing how they are and what sort of day they have had . im in the middle of reading the chimps of fauna sanctuary and although its so hard to read at times it leaves me in awe of the amazing work that is done everyday for these amazing primates , the dedication is boundless and i am so thankful that you all are here doing what you do every day to give the chimps the life they deserve , their ability to learn to trust humans again is staggering and truly puts us humans to shame . thank you once again to everyone at csnw human and chimp 🙂
Best message EVER! What I have learnt from all the Che Elum Seven… From Annie, how to find from within that quiet strength to change. From Missy, the importance of taking the time to have fun with your friends. From Foxie, how little things – like troll dolls – can bring the most happiness. From Burrito, that there’s no shame in enjoying your food. From Jamie, how to be brave and take charge. From Jody, how to just “be” and from Negra how to just accept myself as I am, curves and all. Love and congratulations to all of you – chimps and humans. x x x x x x x x
Amy M says
Thank you, dear Sarah, JB, Jackie, Elizabeth and Diana for helping to heal the world every day, for bringing together this wonderful community of people to help you do it and for inspiring us every day to do what we can to make the world a better place.
And thank you to Neggie, Jamie, Jody, Foxie, Missy, Annie and Burrito for showing us the true meaning of resilience and that as long as there’s a spark of life (or a night bag, troll doll, tutu, etc.), it’s never too late.
May you all continue to go from strength to strength.
Boy, I had to get the tissues out for this one. There is so much to be thankful for and much more to learn I’m sure. I have learned that the things I “thought” were important just don’t seem to matter anymore. It’s ok if the guy cuts me off, or someone cuts in line, or doesn’t hold the door, or takes more time at the check out than I think they should, or is rude or short with me. These things just don’t matter after what the CE7 have gone through before coming to Sanctuary. I have learned to take a deep breath, to look on the bright side and above all patience. I think of the years, decades they spend in a cage no bigger than most of your powder rooms or your kids closet. With nothing to hold, no interaction and no sunshine. It breaks my heart but there is nothing I can do about their past but I can make their today and tomorrow better and I have been honored and so proud to do so.
As far as the blog goes…. well I have to admit that even after a shift I go home and one of the first things I do is check out the blog….
leslie sodaro says
this post is stunningly beautiful. your insights, your love is evident in every word … thank you thank you thank you … and now i will ‘share’ with my facebook friends …
What a heartwarming and lovely post on the 7. Last weekend, during a rainy day, I started at the beginning of the blog and read through to the last post. By then end I was amazed at these wonderful chimps and how far they have come. If I had one wish it would be that humans could be as forgiving as chimps are. What a difference it would make in our world. To the staff and founder of CSNW, thank you for giving them a better life and the love that is clear throughout your posts. To Jamie, Foxie, Annie, Jody, Missy, Negra and Burrito, I love each of you and I am honored and humbled to support you. Happy Anniversary!
Marcia Douthwaite says
Your comments today were so touching, thank you for sharing. I also look forward to your postings, photos and/or videos everyday, you are the best! Love and good wishes to the chimp family and their care givers—well done all.
(Loved the photos of Negra and I bet she will have sweet dreams tonight.)
Beautiful, touching, and hilarious post (not to mention a tear jerker). Thank you so much for sharing all of your thoughts. I hope you know what special souls you are. I often think of all that the chimps have gone through, and what others continue to go through, and it feels like more than my heart can bear. Keith, Sarah, Diana, JB, Jackie, and Elizabeth, and all the supporters, I am profoundly grateful every single day for all that you have done and continue to do for our beloved chimps. For the unconditional love, respect, nurturing, joy, and comfort that you provide to them every day. And for allowing all of us to be part of the chimp family. When I was accepted as a volunteer I cried, just cried. I still cannot believe that I get to have anything to do with these amazing beings without having to be Katelyn Goodall. 🙂 Jamie, Foxie, Jody, Annie, Missy, Negra and Burrito, I am honored and humbled to know you. Each of you give me far more than I could ever give you in return. But something I am so grateful to you for is reminding me what it feels like to have my heart so full of love and joy that it feels like it will burst.
Tears fall from my eyes as I read these entries and comments. I am so proud to be a part of their care! As an educator in the public school setting, I take every opportunity to teach our young minds about the CE7 and where they have come from I and and thank my daughter for introducing them to me!
Megan Jonas says
Happy anniversary CSNW! It was a delight to read about what the chimps have taught you. That picture of Negra in the sun puts such a smile on my face. Thank you for sharing.
I am so at a loss for words right now after just seeing this today…so in the words of Jane Goodall..
Only if we understand, can we care, only if we care, can we help and only if we help shall they be saved….
Happy Anniversary CSNW and much love to you all!!
Suzanne Martin says
I enjoyed reading all about the wonderful things the CSN staff members have learned from the chimps. Wisdom comes in unexpected forms. I especially liked J.B.’s tale of Negra and her bedtime treats. Everyone’s thoughts and musings of lessons learned are lovely. Thanks, Diana, for your thoughts on being the “underdog/chimp” in life. Well received.
I want to thank the Cle Elum Seven. For the price of half a tank of gas to get over the mountains each month, they help me relax and cope with things better than any high-priced Seattle therapist ever could. Early last week was one of the tougher times in my life, but come Thursday, three hours with the poster children for forgiveness and forging ahead, I return home in a zen-like state ready to handle anything that may come my way. Thank you Jamie, Jody, Negra, Foxie, Burrito, Missy and especially Annie, who for some reason I cannot fully explain, is my absolute favorite (don’t tell the others). Also a big thank you to J.B., Diana, Sarah, Jackie and Elizabeth for giving me the opportunity to be part of it all. xoxo Cari
Jeani Goodrich says
WOW! You all really know how to put in to words what the rest of us are thinking. What a truly wonderful blog today JB, Sarah, Jackie, Elizabeth, and Diana. Thank you for taking time out of your already busy lives to share what the chimps have brought in to your lives. It did bring tears as I read each section and marveled at the way with words each of you had. I could picture each chimp as you talked and loved it. It definitely has been a wonderful, exciting, hectic 1095 days of joy, pain, sorrow, and most of all love. Thank you for all you have done, will do, and are doing in the lives of our wonderful 7!