We often mention on the blog the changes that we observe in the chimpanzees and how we’ve seen them grow over the past five and a half years. There’s no doubt that they are still coming into their own, after living the majority of their lives in lab cages and having no control over their choices and no ability to predict what could happen next.
One of the tragic things about captivity is that the chimps are entirely dependent on us caregivers—we provide food, blankets, enrichment, and we shift the doors between their enclosures. For this reason, it is very important to have a routine so that the chimpanzees can have expectations, and can make decisions based on what they know will happen next. This is what is truly the epitome of being in a sanctuary.
Through these choices, we really see the chimpanzees develop their idiosyncratic likes and dislikes, and we see them grow and change over time. Foxie used to only want to play with trolls, and then some time ago she expanded to nurturing Dora dolls (though she still loves trolls). Jamie has a extreme love for boots, but recently it’s been more fashion boots that she prefers over cowgirl boots (her old favorite). Missy loves socks and slinkys, Burrito loves to have wooden toys to bite on, Annie loves to rub water on her face, Jody likes edible flowers and soapy bubbles, and Negra likes peanuts and nesting.
Having choices has allowed the chimps to relax, enjoy the sunshine, friends, good food, and space to run—and that has made them so much healthier and stronger than they ever were in the lab. See for yourself, check out the before and after photos of each of the chimps on their story pages here.
Although we see so many wonderful changes in the chimpanzees due to all the choice they have now, there are some things that never change. I was looking back through some old blog posts from this time in 2008, before the chimpanzees arrived. Diana’s first impressions of the chimps were spot-on and still six years later, they enjoy the same things she predicted they would when they came to CSNW. She talked about Jamie and choices, Negra and nesting, and Missy and Annie’s close friendship and their desire to play, play, play. These are things that the chimpanzees love to do everyday, but unlike in the lab, they are able to fully appreciate and express their preferences.
Today, the enrichment theme was “grooming day.” Jamie had lots of enrichment to choose from. Boots, scarves, emery boards, scrub brushes, trolls, pillows, blankets, paper, and even a toothbrush. Out of all of that, she chose to make a big nest out of a tube of exam table paper. (Thanks, Carol!)
Negra cuddled in a giant nest:
Missy and Annie:
And just for fun, Missy’s enrichment item of choice on grooming day:
I so look forward to the changes that are to come and see how the Cle Elum Seven will continue to flourish in sanctuary , but I know I can still count on some stability in the foundation of what they each love, and will continue to enjoy more and more for the rest of their lives.