A few days ago was the five year anniversary of the chimpanzees going outside onto Young’s Hill for the first time. For many of the chimps, it was probably the first time they had ever been outside in their lives, and it took some adjustment.
Out of all the chimps at the sanctuary, Negra has probably had the hardest time adjusting. On her first day out, she accidentally touched the electric fence and received a shock. For someone who was already predisposed to feel some anxiety at being outdoors after decades in lab cages, this certainly didn’t help. For several months after that Negra refused to step foot outside. Eventually she decided to try again, but she wouldn’t venture far from the greenhouse, and at the first strange noise or gust of wind, she would run back inside with a fear grimace on her face.
This year has been a turning point for Negra. This spring she started hiking straight up to the top of the two-acre Young’s Hill with no apparent anxiety to enjoy some of the wild greens growing up there. Today we set up a lunch forage on the hill and Negra headed outside with the rest of the group, calm and confident.