One of the biggest lessons I have learned about taking care of chimpanzees in a sanctuary setting is that there is no “one size fits all” approach to care. There are, however, very important things that we can offer as caregivers and sanctuary managers, and they include a knowledge of chimpanzees as a species, lots of different options, encouragement, patience, and a willingness to treat the chimpanzees as the individuals who they are.
We learn what they need and want by getting to know who they are, and they continue to surprise us by growing into their more autonomous lives at the sanctuary in different ways; ways we never would have predicted.
I see the job of the humans as facilitators of the chimpanzees’ own discoveries into what makes them most happy and satisfied. We then observe and learn, delighting in the witnessing of the chimps’ discoveries, and that feeds into the next choices that we present. It’s like an infinite loop of happiness. And you are part of it too. When I think about it, many, perhaps even most, of the blog posts that we share with you are about this process.
I’ve talked to several people in the last couple of months who say things like, “The sanctuary’s blog posts are the highlight of my day. They make me so happy!” That, in turn, makes me happy, creating another loop.
It’s a very special experience to share the lives of these chimpanzees with you, and learning about the impact it has on your lives makes it infinitely more special.
This is what I was thinking about when I was out walking with Jamie and Missy this morning and I saw that Burrito had come outside to join them. Today, he was carrying a small orange scrub brush in his mouth.
I was thinking about how it wasn’t that long ago that having Burrito join in a walk around the hill was a new experience for all of us, but now it’s a regular occurrence.
I was thinking about J.B. telling me last night that Burrito got his attention in the middle of the day yesterday to do a perimeter walk – just the guys! – with boss Jamie remaining in the chimp house.
All of this is not to paint a portrait of everyone happy all of the time, of course. All of us, Burrito included, have our moments of sadness, anxiety, anger, etc., but these infinite loops of happiness are always running in the background of our lives, and that makes the not-so-great moments dull and fade maybe just a little bit quicker.