Spring has definitely sprung early at the sanctuary. The first bluebird couple has returned and the vivid blue skies seem to be reflected in their brilliant plumage.
And then there’s Burrito. He’s been regularly joining in on walks around Young’s Hill with Jamie and the caregivers. (You never know when you might need a toothbrush when you’re out on an adventure):
This may not seem like such a big deal, but it’s taken Burrito a couple of years to feel as comfortable walking the perimeter as he appears to be this year. Initially his walks were rather serious endeavors, filled with fear grimaces and anxious looks back toward the safety of the greenhouse. And last year he seemed to prefer to stick closer to the greenhouse and lower hill for food forages instead. But this year, he is not only anxious to come along, he play stomps (chimpanzees often stomp their feet to indicate they want to play), laughs and runs most of the way! It’s an incredible joy to see him so much more at ease and joyful on the hill.
Jamie leading the way and Burrito following:
Here’s Burrito mid-head nod and play stomp and Jamie with her “put that stupid camera down and come on” look:
Jamie looking down from the top of Young’s Hill at the view of the valley and the Yakima River:
At this point, Jamie decided to take a short cut and head down through the middle of the bamboo to explore on her own. This would typically be when Burrito would closely follow her every step so as not to be left behind. But now he has developed this adorable little goat-like kick with his legs (which I unfortunately haven’t been able to capture yet) and takes off in a game of chase, running the rest of the way with the humans:
There are plenty of stops along the way for more play stomping and laughing (and picking up one’s toothbrush):
When we’ve reached the end of the loop around Young’s Hill, the chimpanzees and humans have to briefly part ways. The chimpanzees’ path takes them back toward the greenhouse and the humans’ path takes us a longer route continuing around the outside of the electric fence which encircles not only Young’s Hill, but the chimp house as well. The chimps know we will either meet them back inside or back at the gate to Young’s Hill if they want to go for another loop. Heading off on our separate paths, I looked back to see Jamie looking up at the blue sky where three hawks were flying overhead and Burrito play stomping his way through the spring grass.
As I walked around to meet them on the other side, I was struck by a wave of gratitude for all those who made it possible for the chimpanzees to have Young’s Hill. That the chimpanzees have not only a life in sanctuary, but an incredibly beautiful 2-acre outdoor enclosure to enjoy at their own pace with views of the valley, river, countless trees, and a variety of neighborhood wildlife all set under open skies against a backdrop of snow-covered mountains. And I couldn’t help but smile. For all of us.