One of the most challenging things about caring for chimpanzees in captivity is keeping their highly intelligent minds active and engaged. We actually have a calendar on which we plan out enrichment themes for each day. While we don’t expect the chimpanzees to be aware of our themes, it helps the humans think outside the box when coming up with activities that the chimpanzees might find interesting. Sometimes our ideas are a hit and sometimes they flop. But presenting many of the same items the chimps see on a daily basis in different ways allows them the choice to engage or not, create their own project, or ignore it entirely. Even if they don’t appear interested in something, seeing their captive environment from a different perspective can still be enriching.
Today’s enrichment theme was “Cabana Day.” Sometimes our ideas are equally enriching for the humans! Debbie and volunteer caregiver, Joel, put a significant amount of effort into creating “cabanas” in both the greenhouse:
and the playroom:
It’s always interesting to see how each of the chimpanzees responds to the different themes. Annie enjoyed resting under the blankets briefly before Missy ran in and tore many of them down. Most of the chimps weren’t too sure what to think and many chose to engage in other activities. But for Jody, it became a mission to dismantle the cabanas and untie each and every blanket which she clearly needed for her nest.
Once she had taken care of the blankets in the greenhouse, she moved to the blankets in the playroom. Jody climbed up every spot of caging to untie the blankets, carry them to one of her favorite nesting spots by the barn doors and set to work getting each of the knots out so she could start building her nest. I had to wonder if she was thinking, “These crazy humans, what were they thinking?!”
Finally! Jody was able to get to work putting her nest together:
Now for the self-grooming and relaxing:
While we can’t know what Jody was thinking during her hard work, she definitely seemed enriched.