Negra is the oldest of the sanctuary residents. We celebrate her birthday on the same day the chimpanzees all arrived at the sanctuary (June 13th). However, we will never really know her true date of birth because she was captured as an infant from the wild in the early 1970s. Negra savors her life in sanctuary the way some older humans enjoy their retirement. She eats only her favorite foods, takes lots of long naps and maybe, just maybe, is a tad on the bossy side. Once you know her, it’s simply impossible not to love the Queen of Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest.
Archives for July 2019
Food peering can be defined as one chimpanzee staring closely at the other chimpanzee’s face and/or directly at their food. (Also known as “if I stare long enough, maybe that person will share.”) Sometimes this behavior works and a chimp will share, depending on the value of the item and who the chimp is. However, the owner will often keep on eating and decline to share despite having another chimp peering at their the face. This behavior might seem uncomfortable and probably because it would be for us humans. But these guys do not seem to mind most of the time!
Also bonus photos!
The weather has been unusual this summer. As Katelyn noted yesterday, the temperatures have been cool and the skies have been misty at times. Today is a better example of a typical July day in central Washington- dry, sunny, and warm- and the sanctuary residents are making the most of it. The chimps enjoyed their breakfast while basking in the sunlight on the upper decking of the Greenhouse. The meal included some generously donated green apples and was lovingly served by Level III volunteer Miranda (below).
Afterwards, the chimps seemed to be sufficiently full of fruit and chow and appeared to be extremely content as they slipped into mid-morning naps in various corners of the Greenhouse. Neggie, per usual, settled in a ring of blankets on the upper deck (below), and even Jamie seemed to doze off between bouts of monitoring the caregivers through the playroom window.
Annie sprawled out on the lower decking, tucked her feet in, and inspected the writing on the underside of a toy (below).
Per usual, Missy stationed herself next to Annie and used the opportunity to give herself a quick groom (below). All was quiet in the Greenhouse.
Even when they’re resting and recharging, however, the chimpanzees don’t miss any of the events unraveling around them. Each part of the facility offers a unique view of the surrounding valley, enabling the chimps to be the sentinels of their own territory. Everything the light touches is theirs, and everything that occurs within sight is their business. This morning, that included the team of laborers constructing a new access road that will soon flank the sanctuary to the East (below).
As soon as they started working, Missy took notice (below). Then Annie sat upright and began to follow along. Soon, everyone was spilling out of the raceway onto Young’s Hill to check out the action.
Jamie led the way up the hill, pausing at regular intervals to watch the distant excavation. I could only imagine what she was thinking, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if she was analyzing the grade of the switchbacks or making sure the workers were wearing the proper protective equipment. She’s always supervising.
Foxie and her tiny troll doll traveled in the vanguard, providing Jamie with support and monitoring the situation (below). Missy, Annie, Jody and Burrito all followed close behind. (Neggie “kept watch” over her nest in the Greenhouse.)
Even with all of the planned activities and provisioned objects that the staff and volunteers provide, unexpected events can be the best source of enrichment for the chimps. Both free-ranging and captive chimpanzees engage in regular boundary patrols to survey the landscape and monitor neighboring communities, so unexpected changes can make things interesting. With all of the new developments in their vicinity, the chimps have a lot to keep tabs on as summer progresses and they seem to welcome the responsibility.
Today is a lovely quintessential autumn day. Makes no difference to me, the chimpanzees or the cattle that it’s the middle of summer, we are all thrilled with the charcoal skies, cool, rain-fresh air and still comfortable temperatures. The chimps couldn’t WAIT to get on to Young’s Hill this morning and when I came up to open the door everyone had gathered their remaining breakfast to go and they crowded around the doorway, hair standing on end with excitement. There were human strangers on one side of the hill working on their road up to the power lines, brazen cattle on the other and all under the most glorious of Pacific Northwest days (maybe best appreciated if one is a true Pacific Northwestern soul).
The chimpanzees’ path around Young’s Hill has been mowed down, but it doesn’t take much to venture into the tall grass, growing drier and pokier by the day. Add a sudden shower to the mix and chimps’ sneer faces accurately depict their displeasure of the two. But to their credit, everyone stuck to their group walk around the perimeter, securing their territory from all the intruders this morning.
Burrito (pretty much how I’d look too with grass poking me in the eye while it was raining):
Annie and Missy opted to stay out on their own and made their way to take cover under two structures, seemingly listening to the rain in peace:
And Neggie? Well, she has no need to subject herself to stranger danger, getting poked in the eye by grass or rain. Clever woman:
Later this afternoon, I captured Annie and Missy enjoying one anothers’ company and the beautiful autumn-ish summer afternoon with only the sound of the breeze, a distant birdsong and Foxie sighing in her sleep from the top of the greenhouse:
Annie sitting cross-legged <3
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.
The chimpanzees have been remarkably nonchalant about the giant wing that was added on to their building this spring. Curious at times for sure, but for the most part just going about their days as usual. With the exception of Annie.
Ever since that day last year when we moved the trailer away from the barn doors in preparation for construction to begin, Annie has spent time at those doors peering in, as she is in this photo (she’s the one standing up), or just sitting next to the doors, listening:
The other chimpanzees have been tuned in when something really interesting and new happens, like at the end of January when the hydraulic door on the other side of the barn doors was operated for the first time:
Today though, it was Missy who was spending quite a bit of time hanging out near that doorway to the unknown.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, she did not spend the whole day camped out there. She had other things to do:
I’d love to know what Missy is thinking, what all of the chimpanzees are thinking, about what awaits them on the other side of that door.
Missy has no idea that next month she will be able to look through that door and see the face of her 30 year-old daughter, Honey B. We have the same question as everyone else – will they feel a connection to one another?
They spent less than 24 hours together when Honey B was born to Missy at the Laboratory for Experimental and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP), so it would be extraordinary if they recognized each other by sight. Chimpanzees’ sense of smell is just about as lousy as ours, so that’s not going to help them know each other. It really is like a human mom and baby who were separated at birth. Maybe there will be some kind of connection that even they don’t understand; or maybe it will be the same as Missy with Mave and Willy B – strangers (as far as we know) meeting for the first time.
There are a lot of unknowns.
What is certain is that the chimpanzees are ever more curious about what is going to happen on the other side of that door. Tonight when I went in to the playroom to spot clean I discovered that someone had used a willow branch as a tool to reach a lock on that door.
Soon, chimpanzees, soon.
As Anna mentioned yesterday, the humans are hard at work getting ready for our new arrivals. The quarantine area is almost done, with just a few items remaining on our punch list. The big project we’re working on now is the installation of an overhead chute that will connect the indoor quarantine enclosures to an extension of Young’s Hill. This will accomplish two things: First, it will give the new chimps a way to get some fresh air while they’re still under strict quarantine, which prohibits sharing access to the existing enclosures for health reasons; and second, it will provide the new chimps with a way to access Young’s Hill after quarantine but before they are fully integrated into the existing group. This second point is important, because successful introductions are never guaranteed and even successful intros can stretch on for many months.
The reason for elevating the chute is to maintain access for people and equipment around the building, something that gets trickier as sanctuaries grow and get more complex. Plus, chimps just seem to love overhead chutes.
The team behind the project is led by Gary McInnis of Sage Mechanical (pictured above with a section of the new chute outside his workshop). We were first introduced to Gary through our good friend Ozzie at Spencer Fluid Power, who generously donated a hydraulic unit to power the chimp doors we inherited from the former Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute. Gary visited the sanctuary with Ozzie last fall to help advise us and before long he had offered to donate all of the labor and materials required to hook up the doors. He then asked about the caging we were building and offered to do that job for 25% less than the lowest bid we receive. All told, Sage Mechanical has donated $35,000 worth of materials and labor this year to help us create a home for Honey B, Willy B, and Mave. It’s rare for us to get to work with a group as generous and committed to the sanctuary as Gary and his team.
While the humans are working hard to get everything ready, the chimps are free to do as they please. For Missy and Annie, that often means playing. For Negra, it usually means a good nap. But once and a while she will get a little playful, as you can see in the video above.