Although Burrito isn’t the leader of the group here, the other chimps do offer him lots of submissive greetings – it’s probably their way of trying to keep him calm since he can be a bit of a Tasmanian devil. But Burrito’s social awkwardness leads him to respond to these greetings in an unusual way. When another chimp approaches him to offer a greeting, Burrito usually turns away and squeezes his eyes shut, as if to say, “I don’t see you. This isn’t happening.” It seems that Burrito’s strategy for handling an awkward social situation is to avoid, avoid, avoid.
The other day I was taking some photos of Burrito when Negra (right) entered the room and offered Burrito a kiss greeting. As soon as Negra approached, Burrito looked the other way and closed his eyes.
When he thinks the greeting is over, he’ll often pop an eye open to check if the other chimp is still there.
The other chimps take Burrito’s odd behavior in stride, and luckily for Burrito, these greetings don’t last long. Once the uncomfortable moment has passed, he’s back to his playful self.