In the afternoon, the chimps can often be found gathered together in grooming parties. At CSNW, these parties usually take place on elevated platforms or, as you can see here, in a corner of the playroom loft. Though grooming partners change from day to day and even minute to minute, over time you can observe stable patterns of affiliation – what we would rightly call friendships. Grooming can also be viewed as a form of currency to be used strategically – I do a favor for you by grooming you, and at some point you can pay me back by sharing food, being less aggressive toward me, etc.
Based on research conducted by former CWU student and CSNW intern Jake Funkhouser, we know that Jamie and Negra are the least likely to be involved in these grooming sessions. Negra’s lack of interest in grooming shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that she is less social overall than the others. But Jamie? Shouldn’t the boss get groomed the most?
It may have something to do with the fact that Jamie directs much of her grooming behavior towards the staff and volunteers, which is not unusual in chimps raised by humans. But we can’t discount the face of Jamie that led us to think of her as the boss in the first place – she is a bit of a bully. And it may just be that while aggressiveness will win you an extra piece of fruit now and then, it won’t win you a lot of friends.
The heart of the social network, as Jake discovered, was Jody. She had strong affiliative relationships with the other chimps and was most often the recipient of grooming. As you can see in this video, Burrito and Foxie are engaged in reciprocal grooming, but Annie is happy to groom Jody without receiving anything in return (well, at least not at this time). This is quite the privilege.
Knowing this changes how we see the group, and it will inform the way we approach integrating other chimps. There’s certainly a lot going on in these quiet moments.