We take safety very seriously here at the sanctuary and recognize that humans make mistakes, so we have checks and double checks as a routine part of entering enclosures. We never enter a chimpanzee space unless we have verified that the chimpanzees are secured in another part of the sanctuary, so part of our safety protocols require that at least two people check that all of the chimpanzees have been positively identified outside of the area we are going to enter and that the doors and locks are secure.
If the chimpanzees cooperate, we do all of the full cleaning in the first part of the day, but we also spot clean the playroom (the largest part of the chimps’ indoor area) while the chimpanzees are having dinner.
One day last week, I was serving the chimpanzees their dinner in the greenhouse and Anna was operating doors. She successfully closed off the playroom in order to spot clean and came up to make sure all of the chimpanzees were out of the playroom. Normally, this is one of the easiest checks of the day, because the chimpanzees are lined up ready for their evening meal, so it’s easy to identify everyone and then check doors. This day, however, we could not find Foxie.
We checked in the front rooms, in the greenhouse, and scanned Young’s Hill. Nothing. I then climbed the ladder to see into the loft of the playroom, but she wasn’t there either. All of the other chimpanzees had been served their food, and Foxie was just missing. This never happens. I admit we started to panic just a little. We checked all of the areas again. No Foxie. Finally, we see a figure way off in the distance on the hill coming toward us.
Foxie sauntered through the grass and slowly made her way into the greenhouse as though she didn’t have a care in the world.
Today, as I was taking photos of Foxie carrying a Dora the Explorer doll on her back, it occurred to me that Foxie has chosen the perfect mascot and symbol of her new life at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest.
Go Foxie. Go explore. We’ll save dinner for you.
P.S. Among the 80+ other items, there is a photo print of Foxie on canvas that is part of our Summer Biddin’ online auction. Get your bids in quick – bidding ends at 4:00pm PT tomorrow!