Most people look forward to vacation. But as a caregiver I think I speak for most of us when I say vacation is a bit of a double edged sword. No matter how wonderful a holiday away can be, part of my heart is always with the chimpanzees, missing them and wondering what’s happening. And just as with any friend or loved one, it’s especially wonderful to greet them upon return.
When chimpanzees greet one another after a separation, their greetings can be strikingly similar to our own in posture, gesture, vocalization, and seemingly emotion. The chimpanzees understand much, if not all of what we say, but here at CSNW we use the chimps’ gestures and vocalizations with them as much as possible. And as part of their society and being good subordinate apes, we always try to greet the boss lady, Jamie, first. So on my first day back I walked into the chimp area to find Jamie and was surprised when she charged toward me, with her hair pilo-erect (standing on end). From her behavior (and well, Jamie being Jamie) I fully expected that she was going to skip the pleasantries and express her general displeasure about something with me and braced myself. But much to my surprise she stuck her lips out for a kiss!
And as if that wasn’t enough to make my day, Foxie was the next person to spot me and caregiver, Keri, was able to capture her greeting me on video. But while chimpanzee greetings are much like our own, this greeting bears no resemblance to anything I could do. It’s all Foxie. Which is, of course, why she is so endearing. And one of the best things about vacation. Coming home.