Burrito is known for is love of food, but there is one thing that has an even greater power to capture his attention…
Specifically, tumescent girls.
Female chimpanzees have a menstrual cycle that is very similar to humans, but with one important difference: they advertise their fertility. Throughout their 36-day cycle, changes in hormone levels cause visible changes in the skin of the anogenital region. As they approach ovulation, this area swells and the skin becomes taut and pink, a condition known as tumescence. Male chimpanzees find this very attractive and the tumescent females find themselves at the center of a lot of male attention.
The females’ swellings have great power over the males, like an invisible tractor beam pulling them along. During the lunch forage today, Burrito got so distracted that he barely picked up any food.
Normally, males would mate more often with the tumescent females. But Burrito doesn’t exhibit normal mating behavior. And sadly, this isn’t all that uncommon in captive chimpanzees.
Many chimpanzees born in laboratories are taken from their mothers shortly after birth, either because their mothers aren’t taking proper care of them (they themselves were probably stolen from their mothers), because hand-reared chimpanzees are seen as easier to manage, or because the labs intend on breeding the mother again shortly (the normal birth interval for chimpanzees is about 5 years, but if the baby is taken away the mother will enter into estrus again within months). Laboratory born chimpanzees are also denied the opportunity to grow up in a traditional social setting, where they would learn from family members, other adults in the community, and their peers.
The result of this unnatural upbringing is a chimpanzee that is culturally adrift and frequently frustrated. Not only do chimpanzees like this lack a knowledge of societal customs and traditions, but even basic biological functions are left undeveloped without opportunities for social learning.
Maybe Burrito doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. He finds other ways to deal with his urges, and life goes on. But it is a daily reminder that so much was stolen from these chimpanzees that they can never recover.