For whatever reason, the chimpanzee caregiver field is largely dominated by women. All of the staff here at CSNW at one point or another were students, interns, and/or staff at the former Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute, where we all learned the ropes of chimpanzee husbandry. In my tenure there, I would estimate it was about a 5:1 ratio of women to men!
At CSNW, we’ve had a handful of men volunteer in the chimp house, and several more that have helped in other ways—groundskeeping and outdoor projects, fundraising, event help, etc. But up until recently, the only men that have been direct caregivers are co-director J.B. and our founder, Keith.
Well, Joel broke a new record in our sixth year of sanctuary and became the very first male volunteer caregiver. Though all the chimpanzees enjoy new friendships, Burrito is especially excited. As you can imagine, living with a group of girls and being taken care of by a group of girls makes guy time all the more valuable!
Don’t worry—J.B. and Keith are still Burrito’s pals, as well as all his female caregivers, too! One of the things we emphasize during our caregiver training is the importance of building a strong relationship based on trust, and we divide our time between all the chimpanzees to avoid fostering any “favorites.” But, just like humans, some personalities click differently and that is totally fine. Burrito seems to really click with his new buddy, which makes all the primates here pretty happy.