Chimpanzees exhibit a variety of innate behaviors and vocalizations in different contexts. During play, for example, chimpanzees will often head nod to one another and laugh, which for a chimpanzee is a breathy pant with the top teeth covered by the upper lip. In grooming, chimpanzees will often lip-smack, teeth-clack, or blow raspberries. These behaviors seem to be used to communicate with other individuals that they are interacting in a certain context. Co-director Diana wrote a blog entry last year on grooming, which includes more detailed information about these behaviors and what they mean. As caregivers, we also use these behaviors and vocalizations during interactions to connect with the chimpanzees using their communication methods, which helps build rapport.
In the following video, Jamie plays with staff caregiver Elizabeth. In the beginning of the clip you can hear Elizabeth breathy panting during this tug-of-war/tickle interaction. Jamie then decided that intern Holly’s boot needed some TLC, so look closely at Jamie’s face and mouth to see her lip smacking as she grooms.