The majority of the time, chimpanzees are silent.
And they are often sweet and playful.
But chimpanzee behavior is much more complex than that. Adult chimpanzees are many times stronger than the strongest humans, their behavior is unpredictable, and they often solve problems with physical aggression. Whereas a typical human family squabble probably won’t progress beyond hurtful words and some yelling, a chimpanzee family squabble is much more physical, and often includes hitting, kicking, and biting. Outside the family, things often get even more violent. Adult male chimpanzees have been known to patrol the perimeter of their territory and seriously injure or even kill intruders – a behavior they share with their closest living relatives (humans!).
As caregivers, we develop close relationships with the chimps we care for. Much of our time with the chimps is spent in silly games of chase or tug of war, or quiet and gentle bouts of grooming. But we never forget that the Cle Elum Seven are not domesticated and they do not and should not act that way. They are not pets; they are individuals who play by their own set of rules and who don’t belong in our world. The best we can do for them is to celebrate when they act like chimps should, and be grateful that we’re lucky enough to share our lives with these ambassadors from the natural world.