This morning I was contemplating how we as humans view chimpanzees and how my own views of chimpanzees have changed after getting to know many different personalities. And then I got to the computer and saw these photos that J.B. had taken this morning while strolling with Jamie and Missy.
I know most of you reading this already know how seriously we take safety, but for those who might be reading for the first time, I like to make sure it’s clear that J.B. was safely on the outside of the double electric fence when he took these photos.
No fence, however, prevents us from taking part in the lives of the chimpanzees – Jamie insists on her human caregivers joining in her strolls. And Missy sometimes comes along for the exercise, fun, and companionship too.
Today, Missy got an extra surprise – Jamie’s Halloween / birthday bag that was left at the top of the hill yesterday (see the Jamieween video for reference).
After taking a look in the bag, I’m guessing Missy ran down the hill at breakneck speed – not because of what she saw, but because this is what she likes to do. She sometimes joins Jamie in strolling down the perimeter, but Missy’s speed is usually on “fast,” and she really enjoys running down from the very top of the hill, leaving us slower folks in her dust.
Jamie, on the other hand, makes sure that her human walking partner is keeping up:
Walking around the hill is perhaps Jamie’s greatest pleasure. This is the face of contentment:
Many people, when first learning about chimpanzees, are in awe of how similar they are to humans. And, in fact, many behavioral researchers have spent years comparing chimpanzees to humans in so many ways – language ability, counting prowess, puzzle-solving, teamwork, etc, etc, etc. I think this is what first interested me in non-human great apes. And it still does. It’s remarkable to see Jamie communicating her desires with her human caregivers using gestures, using a (plastic) screwdriver, drawing with a ball point pen, playing with an iPad, and many other activities that she enjoys. And their similarities don’t end on the individual level – observing the social interactions of chimpanzees often really does resemble watching a human reality show – strong personalities and lots of drama.
But what I like most about chimpanzees now, and I think what more and more people are being drawn towards, is their chimpanzee-ness. It’s true that they are so like us, and we, in turn, are so like them, but what they are even more like is themselves, and that’s what makes them fascinating, wonderful, and deserving of protection.