This afternoon, volunteer caregiver Sandra was hanging out with Jamie in the greenhouse when she called me over the radio to let me know Burrito was sunbathing, in case I wanted to come out and snap some photos for the blog. As usual, Burrito was unable to lie still for long once he sensed there was a human in the vicinity who might be enticed to play. See the end of this post for an adorable series of photos.
Speaking of the word “adorable,” we try to be careful with how we present the chimpanzees to people who follow the sanctuary. Much of what we share on this blog is happy and lighthearted. We love to share video of a great play session, or photos of the chimpanzees peacefully grooming one another or basking in the sunshine. And these are all things that chimps do. But chimps are also immensely powerful, intelligent, curious, willful, unpredictable, and at times, violent. We never want to give the impression that we view the chimpanzees as babies, or that we view them as harmless.
CSNW is run on a complex system of security protocols and safety rules that are based on the knowledge that chimpanzees are capable of doing great harm in the right (or wrong) circumstances. Volunteers are trained to treat the chimpanzees as equals; to offer them the same respect they offer fellow humans.
Respecting the chimps for who they are means being aware of and appreciating all aspects of their personalities. Jody may poke us one minute and offer us a kiss the next. Jamie may put on an intimidating dominance display, and then come over and gently groom our boots. Just like humans, chimpanzees are complex and multi-faceted.
So when I say that Burrito is adorable, I am not intending to take anything away from the strong, smart, sometimes aggressive adult male chimpanzee that he is. But in addition to those things, he is undeniably cute. I think there’s plenty of room in one person for all sorts of contradictions.