For everyone’s safety, humans have very little physical contact with the chimpanzees at the sanctuary. We are always separated by caging, chimp-proof glass, or electric fence. Staff and a select group of volunteers who have gone through extensive safety training are permitted to have what we refer to as protected physical contact with the chimps. Here are just a few of our safety rules outlined in the training packet for Level III volunteers (the only volunteers permitted to interact with the chimps):
Never let your fingers or any other part of your body penetrate the caging.
Never lean on the caging with any part of your body.
Never put yourself in a position where a chimpanzee is able to pin or grab you. Pay attention to where your body is in relation to the caging at all times. Remember that the chimpanzees can grab clothing, hair, hoods, scarves, shoelaces, etc.
Never take your eyes off the chimpanzee you are serving or interacting with. At the same time, use your peripheral vision to monitor all other nearby chimpanzees.
We consider the chimps our friends, but they are wild animals, and they are powerful and unpredictable. We take these, as well as our many other, safety rules very seriously. In this video you’ll a see a few of the different types of contact interactions that trained caregivers have with the chimpanzees.