If you’ve been following the blog for awhile you are probably aware that we talk a lot about enrichment for the chimpanzees. Things for them to play with, nest with, investigate, use as tools, make projects with, encourage natural behaviors, or use for whatever comes to their minds. Even the best facilities for captive chimpanzees will never be able to fully replicate their natural lives in the wild. And chimpanzees, who experience the world in much the same way that humans do emotionally and intellectually, are going to get bored in captivity at some point, despite the best of care. Keeping their active minds busy and their days interesting is one of the biggest challenges we face as caregivers.
We provide a variety of items for the chimps each day and everything comes out each morning to be cleaned and is replaced with new items. For the humans, there are two enrichment calendars hanging in the chimp house, one for daytime enrichment and one for evening enrichment. Each day, thanks to Keri, our Enrichment Coordinator, notes a particular “theme” for the day and a particular food puzzle for the evening. For example for daytime enrichment it might be “trolls in socks” day, “yellow” day, or “garden” day. The themes are really a way for the humans to think outside the box and try to present the same things in a new and interesting way for the chimps.
The enrichment theme for today was “giant pile” meaning that after we cleaned the chimp house, we put their fresh blankets and enrichment for the day in a giant pile in the middle of playroom. The chimps each took turns collecting the items they wanted from the pile and went their way. Jody took her time and pulled together quite a array of items she needed to nest with. After choosing an armful of blankets, she found a paper bag and decided to make a lovely wadge as she looked out over the garden. A wadge is a ball of food or something fibrous that chimps like to place in their bottom lips to suck on.
Once Jody had her blankets and wadge situated, she chose the dolls she needed. She decided on two trolls and a Dora doll, sticking two in her pelvic pocket and carrying one. Then she headed upstairs to find a quiet corner to construct her nest.
But it can be precarious carrying all of that stuff upstairs and once Jody reached the loft, she dropped one of the trolls down below. Much to my surprise, she came all the way back downstairs, rescued the fallen baby, and decided while she was at it she should grab some more blankets. Then she headed back upstairs with another precarious load covering her head. It’s hard work gathering the perfect nesting accessories.