I’ve been wanting to write a blog post about serving food for a while now in response to a question I am frequently asked. How do we give food to the chimpanzees if we never enter the enclosures with them or stick our fingers into the enclosures? There are a few different options, including serving the food through the openings in the caging to each of the chimps and setting up forages for the chimps to gather the food themselves.
Serving entails serving food to the chimps’ hand or mouth (or sometimes foot). We make sure to cut foods to a size that will easily fit through the squares in the caging or we can drop food into food chutes (located in the Front Rooms). Things like celery, carrots and cucumbers are easy to hand to the chimps through the openings. Roasted vegetables are softer and we use small paper plates or serving trays that can be rolled up and passed through the openings. Liquids, such as fruit smoothies, (which are served at breakfast) are poured into cups and caregivers hold the cups up to the chimps’ outstretched lips. Serving allows us to know exactly how much each chimp is getting of each food. Check out this link to see examples of meals we serve throughout the day.
The following photos were all taken during the chimps’ dinner from the top of the Greenhouse when the panels were off this past summer. As you can see in the photos, some of the chimps prefer to hang, while others prefer to sit on the ground or utilize the plastic chairs or barrels.
Some of the chimps prefer to stay and eat all of their food where it is served, while others tend to gather their portions and go to a different area to eat them.
Foraging allows the chimps to move around and gather the food themselves, which is what they would be doing in the wild. For forages, we cut the food into smaller pieces and scatter them throughout the various enclosures after we have cleaned (the chimps are locked out of the enclosure humans are in). Once we have locked up and done our safety checks, we give the chimps access to the enclosure and they gather the food themselves. Foraging gets the chimps moving (important for chimps in captivity) and gives the chimps choices over which foods they prefer to collect and eat first. Click on the link at the beginning of the paragraph for a great video of the chimps foraging on Young’s Hill.