I am introducing myself, Anthony, as the newest caregiver at CSNW. I first came to central Washington as an incoming graduate student back in September of 2015. It was the first time I had ever been west of the Mississippi River. I had just spent the better part of four years exploring the field of primatology, both as a volunteer field assistant and as an apprentice caregiver. I was entirely focused on New World primates, especially spider monkeys, and had already committed to writing my thesis about their behavior. All I knew about chimpanzees was from scientific articles, Jane Goodall’s books, and BBC documentaries. I had never seen one in real life (real-life Foxie, pictured below).
The partnership between Central Washington University and Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest was still fresh news back then. J.B. (“Professor Mulcahy”) was teaching a course on primate welfare for the first time and his lectures convinced me to get involved with the sanctuary. I began to volunteer out here as an escape from the offices and teaching labs of the university and became proficient as a Level II volunteer. By the time that I had defended my thesis and finished my course work, I was fascinated by chimpanzees and committed to helping more nonhuman primates reach sanctuary. I was fortunate enough to be hired by Project Chimps, a growing sanctuary in Georgia, and I worked there as an aide and caregiver for almost two years. It was a great experience and I got to know many amazing chimpanzee and human individuals, but I missed the Pacific Northwest and the unique little sanctuary here in central Washington.
Last month, two years after my last visit, I returned to CSNW as a caregiver. Many things look and feel the same. The scenery is just as I had remembered, with views of distant mountains framed by Ponderosa pines (above). Hawks still soar on the warm breeze, which smells like evergreens and neighboring pastures. The chimps still enjoy morning walks on Young’s Hill and copious amounts of nutritious foods and enriching activities throughout the day. Jamie still runs a tight ship in the Chimp House, demanding continuous excellence (below). Annie’s kind face is still here, as are Burrito’s appetite, Foxie’s dolls, Jody’s foraging skills, Missy’s athleticism, and Negra’s attitude. All of the humans are still as friendly, colorful, and easygoing as ever. The dedicated team of staff, volunteers and interns still complete the daily tasks with unparalleled attention to detail, vigor and purpose. There are still baskets of cowboy boots and troll dolls out drying in the sun and volunteers out picking raspberries for the chimps. Even the brown dairy boots that I once used as a volunteer are still hanging on the rack in the shed. In short, CSNW is still CSNW.
Despite these consistencies, there has been noticeable growth. Some of the new developments are superficially obvious, such as the addition of four bovines (including Honey, pictured above). The cattle reside on one of the two expansion properties and now have the opportunity to graze on the green hillside adjacent to Young’s Hill, within view of the chimpanzees. Seeing three cows and a gigantic steer near the chimps is a bit odd at first, but they’ve been a great addition to the sanctuary.
The most eye-catching change, however, is the shiny new expansion to the Chimp House. In addition to the completed veterinary clinic and related service areas, the new wing of chimpanzee enclosures is almost finished. J.B. and the team are making the final touches to the area (pictured above, with J.B. shown for scale) so that it can be functional housing for three incoming chimpanzees. Honey B, Mave and Willy B will be here shortly and the entire team is making preparations for their arrival. Back in 2015, the prospect of new chimpanzees seemed distant. Now, with new arrivals on the way, the atmosphere here is thick with anticipation and excitement. As my training continues and I settle into my new role as a staff member, my love for this place and its residents grows stronger each day, and I look forward to helping the sanctuary grow from within.