If you are new to the blog, something we write about often is the chimpanzees’ enrichment. One of the biggest challenges we face with captive chimpanzees (and all animals really) is keeping their intelligent and active minds busy. In the wild chimpanzees are busy patrolling large territories, foraging for food and navigating the dynamics of large families. So even the best captive situation cannot provide the mental stimulation chimps receive in their natural wild lives.
We have two calendars in the chimp house, one for daytime enrichment and one for evening enrichment. Daily enrichment is given a theme such as “blue things,” “troll scarves,” or “beach day” and is really to help us caregivers think outside the box a bit and keep things interesting for the chimps by presenting their enrichment in different ways each day. Evening enrichment is provided each evening after dinner and consists of some kind of food puzzle which keeps the chimps engaged in an activity as we close up the chimp house for the night.
Today’s enrichment theme was “giant pile” day meaning we deposited all of the chimps’ toys, activities and blankets into a giant mountain of a pile in the playroom after cleaning. Jamie was thrilled and promptly took over the entire pile (much to Negra’s chagrin who was sitting above her on the catwalk, looking disgusted with the humans’ “bright idea,” waiting for the opportunity to steal some blankets away for her nest).
But the boss lady had no shame in making the coziest nest ever (with 30 blankets) and loved being able to check everything of interest all within arm’s reach. She spent some quality time relaxing with her beloved boot, reading her new books, and occasionally glancing outside the barn doors to this beautifully peaceful spring day.
As I gaze at these photos Jamie allowed me to take I can’t help but think of the past she, and all the chimps, came from and the contrast of their lives now. What must it feel like for them to be at peace? To be surrounded by comfort, love and respect? To spend their time doing what feels best to each of them? The look of well-being and contentment and the light in Jamie’s eyes speaks volumes. And it makes my heart sing for her.