Following a routine each day allows for the chimps to know what to expect next. We start by serving a snack in the morning shortly after arriving. Then we clean the Greenhouse portion of their enclosure and once that is done, we finish serving breakfast. Sometimes, instead of serving meals, we mix it up by spreading the food around the various enclosures for the chimps to forage. Either way, the chimps know that when we are finished cleaning, locking up and going through all of our safety checks, they will get access to the newly cleaned area. Shortly after breakfast, they are given access to Young’s Hill (their outdoor enclosure). Following this routine helps the chimps make their own decisions about participating in meals and how they would like to spend their time (staying indoors or exploring Young’s Hill, for instance).
This morning, Jody seemed to be on a mission after breakfast was done. Knowing that I would open door Y (the door leading from the Greenhouse to Young’s Hill) after breakfast, she sat right by the door waiting. As soon as I did, she went straight for a mound at the top of the hill and I followed her (from the other side of the electric fences, of course) to see where she was headed.
Turns out, the mound at the top of Young’s Hill is still full of tasty wild plants, despite the yellowing foliage. I watched her pick some of the plants and eat them individually and then witnessed her “stripping” some of the other plants. She placed her hand at the base of the plant stem and drew upwards, stripping the plants of their leaves and then stuffing them in her mouth. Watching this reminded me of the videos I’ve seen of wild chimpanzees stripping termites off of the blades of grass they used to dip into holes in termite mounds. (The termites pinch the blades of grass and hold on as the chimpanzees pull the grass from the mound. Then the chimps eat the termites using their hands or mouths).