It’s amazing how much Burrito has changed in his time here at the sanctuary. When Burrito arrived, he was afraid of everything. And who could blame him…he was taken from his mother shortly after birth, put into a biomedical research study as an infant, then raised as a pet in someone’s home, and then sent off to perform in a circus. After all that, he was forced to spend 20 years in a lab cage as a hepatitis vaccine research subject. He never learned to be a chimp, and that left him with an extreme lack of confidence in social situations. But he has grown so much over the past four years.
This morning, the chimps rushed out onto Young’s Hill to face off with a dangerous intruder. OK…it wasn’t so much a dangerous intruder as it was a couple of puppies barking from our neighbor’s property. But the chimps were on high alert! In the past, Burrito might have hung back and let Jamie and some of the other girls take care of things. But this morning, Burrito was determined to be part of the team.
For Burrito, this was not the most comfortable situation. First, he had to venture to the very top of Young’s Hill, an area he has only been to a couple of times. Second, he had to do this with everyone else in a state of high arousal. When chimps are in a state of high arousal, group dynamics can be fluid and unpredictable. Aggression towards someone else can easily be directed back at you if you aren’t careful.
Burrito seemed determined not to let that stop him. But before he went up the hill, he needed some reassurance, which Missy was happy to provide.
This is a typical reassurance interaction. Burrito stands bipedal and waits for Missy to approach. The two hug, and then quickly extend their arms over each other and groom each others backsides.
After the barking stopped, Burrito continued to walk around the top of the hill. When he needed more reassurance, Foxie was there to give him a hug.
It’s important to note that reassurance like this is not just hugs and kisses between friends. When Burrito is in a state of high arousal, he is a loose cannon. In addition to lending their friend a helping hand, the girls are trying to diffuse a potentially dangerous situation.
A calm Burrito is in everyone’s best interest.