I never tire of watching, or receiving, chimpanzee greetings. Just as humans do, chimpanzees greet each other after a separation, and since we are fortunate enough to be considered part of the chimps’ family, we are often included in that. Here at CSNW we greet the chimpanzees using the same behaviors and vocalizations that they do with one another. Greetings can include many different behaviors and be quite complex, often communicating a lot of information. Typically as two individuals approach each other they have their hair standing on end, bounce, bob or stand bipedally, and utter panting sounds (all indicative of high arousal and excitement). They can throw in a head nod, offer an outstretched arm or extended hand, and even kiss. And each of the chimpanzees greet others in different ways.
Jody is an independent woman. She isn’t one to show much interest in interacting with her caregivers throughout the day, but when we arrive to the chimp house in the morning she is often one of the first chimpanzees to greet us. The mornings are usually the only time Jody is interested in interacting with us physically (we never penetrate the caging but can offer a bent wrist if she wants to touch or kiss the back of our hand). And though she is fairly uninterested in the humans for the rest of the day after her morning ablutions, if we are lucky (and the mood strikes her) she will often greet us from afar as we pass by. Especially if it doesn’t involve getting up out of her cozy nest. Which to me, actually makes it more special somehow.
Jody has a particular greeting that we endearingly refer to as her “bouncy greeting.” The minute she sees us, her hair stands on end and she walks quickly toward us, and with eyes widened and eyebrows raised, she holds our gaze and bounces her bottom up and down for several seconds. Then quietly goes on her way. The complete earnestness with which she does this is quite endearing (and of course, we mimic her greeting and bounce back!).
While heading out with Jamie for a walk around the hill, I spotted Jody off in the distance, headed up the hill with a huge mouthful of bamboo, on her own mission. I called a greeting to her, fully expecting her to ignore me and then suddenly she turned toward me, dropped her bamboo, gazed earnestly across the hill at me and the bouncy greeting ensued! It never grows old, never ceases to amaze me, those moments when you connect with another species, especially in their language. A simple interaction yet so profound. Jody’s unique greeting always brings a smile to my face and while I can’t seem to get the humans at the sanctuary to greet me that way, I’m pretty happy that Jody does.