One of the many benefits of Young’s Hill is that it has given the chimps a bit more autonomy. The chimps love to eat grass, especially the tender and vibrant green grass of spring. But we were never able to get grass to grow in their old outdoor enclosure, so the chimps had to ask us to get it for them. Annie was especially persistent – in the spring, our staff and volunteers would become full-time grass fetchers (Negra would even demand that we fetch her grass by clapping impatiently – her servants are never fast enough for her).
The chimps’ love of grass is one of the main factors in helping them acclimate to their new, 2-acre enclosure. Last fall, after rushing out onto the hill on the very first day, a few of the chimps decided that once was enough. They would sit in the doorway and stare out at the wide open field, but their fear of the open space kept them from going any further. Then they noticed little clumps of green grass growing just a couple feet beyond the end of the tunnel. They mustered the courage to venture out that far, and then quickly picked a handful of grass and raced back to the safety of the old enclosure. Once that clump was picked clean, they went a little farther, and on and on it went like this until one day, they must have realized that they were 20 feet out into the enclosure and everything was OK.
Negra is going through that phase now, as we explained in a recent blog post, and she continues to spend more and more time outside each day. For the others that have already overcome their fears, spring is a time to relax and enjoy the benefits of having your very own 2-acre salad bowl right outside your back door.