If Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest were a high school, Burrito would be the guy wearing the wrong clothes and saying the wrong things.
Chimpanzee groups operate under a strict set of social rules. Wild chimpanzees learn these rules as children by watching the older members of their group. Most of the chimps at the sanctuary, despite having grown up in entirely unnatural circumstances with limited exposure to other chimps, seem to have some understanding of these rules. But Burrito hasn’t read the rulebook. He doesn’t even know where to find a copy.
Burrito’s hormones and millions of years of evolutionary pressure are giving him bad advice. As a male chimpanzee, he is instinctually driven to show everyone he’s in charge. He does this multiple times each day through intimidating dominance displays. Wild male chimps have these same instincts, but their instincts are tempered by social learning. A free-living male chimp might get the following message from his brain: “It’s time for a display, but the alpha’s over there, so steer clear of him, and be sure to keep it short and to the point.” The message Burrito receives seems to be less nuanced: “GO!!!”
None of this is Burrito’s fault, of course. He was born in a laboratory and lived most of his life alone. He never had peers to learn from. Consequently, he has all of the instinct and none of the experience. This has gotten him in some trouble with the other chimps at the sanctuary, and he often seems out of his element. But he has come a long way. At the age of 32, surrounded by a stable group of chimpanzee friends, he is learning the skills and lessons he should have learned as a kid. He is fitting in more and more everyday. Burrito is finally growing up.