We’ve written before on the blog about our daily routine here at the sanctuary, and why routine is important to the chimpanzees. At mealtimes, we ask the chimps to shift to a separate area of the chimp house so that we can close off and clean the area they’ve just evacuated. If one of the chimps chooses to stay behind, they know that they’re choosing not to participate in the meal, and they know that another meal will be served in a few hours. Because of this consistent routine, the chimps are never blindsided by the consequences of their decisions.
The chimpanzees are pretty motivated by food, so this routine works very well most of the time. Occasionally, a chimpanzee will decide they’d rather skip breakfast and have the playroom to themselves for a little while than join the others in the greenhouse for a meal. If this happens, we don’t sweat it. We love that they’re now able to make decisions about how and where they want to spend their time.
We do make one exception to this “if you don’t shift, you forfeit the meal” routine. When we set up a forage outside on Young’s Hill, we don’t require that the chimpanzees go out on the hill to eat. Though they’ve become increasingly comfortable with the wide open spaces of the outdoors since we opened the hill three years ago, they still feel safer inside or in the enclosed greenhouse, and we don’t want to push them too far out of their comfort zone before they’re ready. Most of the chimpanzees participate enthusiastically in Young’s Hill forages, but Negra is sometimes hesitant to venture out with the others. When that happens, we happily serve her some fruit or veggies in the greenhouse.
This morning we scattered the chimps’ breakfast fruit on the hill and most of the chimps ran out as soon as we opened the door. Negra watched from the doorway for a moment but ultimately retreated back inside. So JB grabbed some fruit from the kitchen, and she enjoyed it in the comfort of the greenhouse.
Tomorrow is Negra’s 41st birthday (and the 6th anniversary of the chimps’ arrival at the sanctuary!), and we will be throwing her a fancy tea party fit for the queen she is. If you haven’t already, please make a donation in honor of Negra, and in celebration of sanctuary.