In celebration of CSNW’s 8th Anniversary, we are taking a trip down memory lane. Today we look back on the chimpanzees’ fourth year at the sanctuary.
By the beginning of Year Four, we had a long-standing dream of expanding the sanctuary and giving the chimpanzees a spacious, open-air outdoor habitat, unlike anything they had experienced in their lives.
By the summer of 2011, thanks to help from supporters Karen and Don Young and so many others, Young’s Hill was nearing completion.
The chimpanzees were able to watch the construction from the greenhouse, but it’s hard to say what they thought of it. We hoped that they knew it was for them. They were certainly curious.
As the big day approached, we all tried to predict how the chimps would react to the door to Young’s Hill being opened for the first time.
For most of them, this would be the first time in their long lives that they would feel grass under their feet and have an unimpeded view of the sky above. We guessed that they would probably be too apprehensive to stay outside for long on the first day, and that some of them would likely be too afraid to venture out at all.
We should have known not to underestimate them.
On the day that the door to Young’s Hill was opened for the first time, all of the chimpanzees showed astonishing courage by stepping eagerly into the great unknown. Watch video of their exhilarating first moments outside. It was an emotional day for the chimps and for all the humans who love them.
The opening of Young’s Hill set off a series of firsts for the chimpanzees that year. It was the first time they were sharing a habitat with other creatures, and they had to deal with a lot of strange noises.
Having lived in indoor or partially-indoor enclosures for their entire lives, they had never fully experienced weather or seasons. On Young’s Hill they encountered sun, wind, rain, and snow.
Despite their burst of courage and adventurousness on the first day, not everyone felt immediately at home outside. We saw the more confident chimps support and encourage the more hesitant individuals.
We all got chills seeing the chimps behave like a wild troop for the first time, now that they had a territory to patrol.
And we continued to be amazed as they stretched their legs and their horizons.