Yesterday was an exciting day for the chimps. As we promised, we are giving you a more detailed description and a video today!
As the team continues modifying the facility to prepare for the arrival of three chimpanzee individuals from Wildlife Waystation, the current residents get to observe the ongoing changes. Yesterday, their attention was focused on the wall that separates the existing Playroom from the new wing of chimpanzee enclosures. Until recently, a pair of steel mesh doors and a solid barn door separated the Playroom from the meadow outside. With Phase I of the expansion almost complete, however, the wall now serves as the primary barrier between the old and new sections of the building. It is here that the new arrivals will meet the seven chimpanzees who already live here, and we have to make structural modifications accordingly.
J.B. had his kit (pictured above) ready to go yesterday morning as we unlocked the Playroom for routine cleaning (without any chimps inside, of course). The first step was to cut off the existing doors, then Level II intern Fritz helped the staff to carry them out of the building. Then, with the the wall and new doorway now fully accessible, J.B. installed a sheet of clear plastic into the steel door frame leading into the new expansion (pictured below). (The materials for this door were salvaged from the former Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute in Ellensburg.)
The solid plastic window locks into the frame but can be replaced by other materials that allow for varying degrees of physical, visual, and auditory communication between the chimpanzees on either side. In caregiving/zookeeping jargon, this customizable interface is known as a “Howdy Door.” Such devices can be extremely valuable when introducing unfamiliar chimpanzees to one another. Although the plastic insertion still needs a bit of polishing, it gave the chimpanzees their closest peek yet into the enclosures which will soon contain Honey B., Mave, and Willy B.
As seen in the video, the chimpanzees all expressed interest in the newly-exposed doorway. Jamie certainly spent the most time in front of the Howdy Door, alternating between supervising J.B. and trying to take the door apart. Burrito used the hard surface for percussion while Annie, Jody and Foxie all inspected it on their own terms. Although we didn’t capture them on camera, even Negra and Missy gave the door a quick inspection once everyone else had cleared out. Even after Level III volunteer Miranda served the chimps their lunch in the Greenhouse, most returned to the Playroom to watch the door as they digested (like Annie, below).
It is difficult to predict how each individual will react to meeting an unfamiliar chimp through the window, but they certainly notice, and get excited by, each new change.