As I watched the chimps head out onto the hill today, I realized that it was a perfect moment to grab the telephoto lens and take some shots of the chimps on the towers. On mornings like these, Foxie likes to take to her usual spot, doll in hand, to spy on the world through the slatted walls of her fort.
Taking photos through multiple layers of electric and woven wire fencing is difficult. Many shots turn out blurry or obscured, so I often find myself laying in the grass to find the right angle and snapping dozens if not hundreds of photos in order to get a decent shot.
I watched as Foxie engaged in phantom nesting – a behavior that, while technically abnormal, can actually be a sign of contentment. Chimps who were deprived of nesting material or the opportunity to learn from family and peers when they were young sometimes show only the rudimentary, ritualized elements of nesting behavior, as if they are building a nest out of thin air.
She played her usual games with her doll, propping it up on the railing…
…and then knocking it down into her waiting arms.
While we make no effort to hide the fact that these chimps live in cages, behind glass and concrete, or within the confines of an electric fence, I can’t deny that I also enjoy perspectives like these that show how large their world has become, even within those constraints.
So there I was, laying in the grass, when suddenly I noticed that Jody had spotted me. She looked concerned, and I had to agree that my behavior was indeed quite unusual. I shouted, “It’s just me, Jo Jo!”
She walked a little closer, still worried. “Jo Jo, it’s me! It’s OK!”
Her expression first softened with the recognition that it was a friend and not a stealthy intruder lurking behind the fence, but it quickly turned to a look that – if I may be a bit liberal with my interpretation – seemed to convey her profound disappointment that I should go around scaring people like that.
With that crisis averted, she joined Foxie on the tower.
…and took part in the spying.
As soon as she left, Foxie returned to her games in peace, as she seems to prefer on mornings like these.