Last week, I witnessed an intimate grooming session between an unlikely pair – Jamie and Burrito.
We’ve written many times on this blog about the importance of social grooming among chimpanzees. Jamie is a bit unusual, well, in many ways, but in particular with grooming. She is not seen grooming the other chimpanzees very often, and they are not often seen grooming her. This is all the more unusual because of her boss (or maybe the more appropriate term is “bossy”) status within the group.
Her relationship with Burrito is not a close friendship. I describe Jamie as treating Burrito like an annoying little brother. They do hang out together, and sometimes groom each other, but usually not for long periods of time.
Jamie is most interested in the human activity around the chimp house, and she likes to groom her human caregivers, though she doesn’t usually request that we groom her in exchange. So, when I think of Jamie engaged in social grooming, this is what I picture:
Last week, however, this is what I witnessed:
(Jamie on the left and Burrito on the right)
This went on for quite a long time. I’m not sure how long because, after taking several photos, I decided to quietly depart the area and leave them to their grooming.
Being a removed observer of these moments between the chimpanzees, when they are wholly engaged in their interactions with each other and do not care whatsoever what I am doing, is what makes me most happy as a sanctuary caregiver.