If the chimps had their way, they’d eat all day long. Burrito would be unstoppable. Negra would probably forego blankets entirely and just make huge nests out of bread and peanuts so that she would never have to get out of bed again. But overeating is not usually conducive to good health, so for their sake we try to balance these two competing interests as best we can.
Thankfully, there’s a miracle diet food that helps keep chimps happy and healthy: alfalfa. Not just alfalfa, but also bamboo, grape vines, timothy hay, cattails – things that we collectively refer to as “browse”. Chimps love browse, but most browse plants are too fibrous to be digested properly, so they either pass right through or the chimps spit them out after a thorough chewing. Browse makes it possible for chimps to chew to their hearts’ content without eating a lot of calories.
In the summer and fall, many types of browse grow naturally in the chimps’ two-acre enclosure, which allows them to grab a snack anytime they like. Naturally occurring browse is harder to find during the winter, so we make sure to provide Burrito and his family with store-bought treats like alfalfa cubes on a regular basis: