Today we kept half of the chimp house pretty low key and quiet so Burrito and Willy B could continue to build their friendship. Meanwhile, the “Girl Gang” celebrated Jamie’s 42nd Birthday in their upstairs Mezzanine space. Happy Jamieween everyone!
Archives for October 2019
This amazing day of sanctuary was sponsored by Shirley Wooten, Chimpanzee Pal to the boss lady herself, Jamie, in honor of Jamie’s 42nd birthday today!! Shirley shared this really lovely note about her gift today:
“Happy Birthday Jamie! Thank you to her caregivers and to the supporters of CSNW for giving Jamie choices, lots of space, more freedom than she has ever had, and the enrichment her active mind needs. Thank you for giving her the opportunity to be the leader she was born to be, Jamie is a very special lady and I hope she has a very special day.”
Shirley, thank you SO much for thinking of Jamie and sponsoring her honorary Halloween birthday, or as it’s known here at the sanctuary, Jamieween!!
If you’ve ever had the honor of meeting Jamie here at the sanctuary or have gotten to know her through our daily blog, you know she’s one of the most intelligent, creative, amazing (and sometimes intimidating) people you will meet. To the Lady Trickster herself, Happy Birthday, Jamie! We could not be more in awe of, or in love with, you.
In case you missed Monday’s announcement: We’re back in the game.
The merging of two chimpanzee groups is almost always an emotional roller-coaster for chimpanzees and humans alike. We caregivers have to balance the immediate safety and comfort of each chimpanzee with our expectations for their long-term happiness and stability, all while working around the limitations of our existing facility and restricted schedule. For the most part, though, the reactions of the chimpanzees determine if, when and how the integration proceeds. There have been heartbreaking setbacks, such as last Wednesday’s chimp fight, that made us pause and regroup. There have also been intervals of uncertainty while the chimpanzees recuperated from stressful and exhausting experiences and we struggled to return to some sort of routine.
Most importantly, there have also been heartwarming breakthroughs, like Monday’s play session between Willy B and Burrito, that have encouraged us to keep on keepin’ on.
From our perspective as behaviorists and caregivers, the potential bond between Willy B and Burrito is worth all of the effort of integrating the two groups. Male chimpanzees are more gregarious than females and seem to have an inherent desire to spend time with each other. In the wild, males stay in the same communities for their entire lives and therefore develop and maintain lifelong partnerships with their male peers. Although adult male chimps sometimes fall victim to rivalry and violence, they generally have relationships characterized by cooperation, reciprocation, and trust. In captivity, although males may not be closely related and may be introduced to each other as unfamiliar adults, they still tend to form enduring and fulfilling friendships with other males.
Burrito has not had an opportunity to hang out with another male since long before he reached sanctuary. His friendships with individuals like Foxie, while still important, may not offer him the same excitement or comfort as his developing bond with Willy. Now that we understand more about Burrito’s insecurities and have seen how he tends to behave when encountering new chimpanzee neighbors, we are going to try a more gradual and controlled integration of the two groups. Hopefully, the two boys will form the solid core of the new social group.
Of course, there are other important friendships to consider as well. Jamie and Mave seemed to really hit it off, and Negra has often been seen playing with Honey B. Jody seems to have found the guy of her dreams in Willy B, and Missy has had the opportunity to play with, groom, and embrace her daughter (even if she probably has no way of knowing that).
For now, however, we will continue to advance slowly in order to remain considerate of each chimpanzee’s desires and anxieties. We will continue to trust the chimpanzees (because they are, after all, quite smart). For now, I recommend that you all enjoy the video of Burrito and Willy B’s first meeting without a barrier between them. I hope it brings you all the same joy and courage that the experience gave to us.
We had a small, but big “win” today in the ongoing saga of introductions with our chimpanzee family. Burrito’s injuries had healed sufficiently to receive the okay from our vet, Dr. Erin Zamzow, to have a meeting with Willy B so we introduced the fellas 1:1 today. And while we had no idea how things would go, we walked them through one step at a time and just took things at their pace, based on what they told us they were comfortable with.
While Negra, Mave and Honey B were sequestered comfortably in the front rooms and Foxie, Jamie, Missy, Annie, and Jody were in Phase 1, we allowed Willy B and Burrito to spend a few minutes meeting at the mesh between the greenhouse and the front room where Burrito has been residing while he heals. Willy B pulled out all the stops in chimpanzee lingo and gestures toward Burrito; breathy panting, bobbing his head, allowing Burrito to approach at his own pace and showing nothing but friendly excitement and interest in meeting him. It took Burrito several minutes to work up his courage to approach Willy B, but when he did it was another very successful interaction where they spent several minutes intensely grooming through the caging.
Then the big step came of holding our breath and opening the door a fraction to see how each responded. With no signs of aggression, we opened the door up and gave Burrito access to the greenhouse with Willy B. It took Burrito a bit to feel comfortable heading out there with that big guy, but Willy B was calm and patient and Burrito finally followed his courage into the greenhouse. It took a long time for them to approach each other and when they eventually met it was brief and then they separated. Though they both continued to demonstrate positive, sometimes even playful interactions toward one another, they weren’t having contact. Which isn’t what you want to see. So we waited. And waited. And waited. And then…we heard it. Breathy panting! A welcome vocalization of greeting, reassurance and excitement. And when we peeked in they were grooming! They spent close to two hours like this! Eventually both were ready for dinner and everyone is back in their respective spaces for the night. But we couldn’t have asked for it to have ended better.
It’s important to remember that just because this first 1:1 meeting went extremely well, it’s absolutely no indication that subsequent meetings will follow suit. In fact, it’s pretty much guaranteed that a fight is going to ensue at some point. And as soon as we add any other chimpanzee to the mix, dynamics change again. But for now, we all needed a win. And more importantly Willy B and Burrito did, too. And did we ever get one.
It’s been a long day for everyone so we leave you with a few photos of the guys for now and a video to come tomorrow!
Chimpanzees thrive on routine.
Of course, we don’t want every day to be exactly the same for them. As caregivers, we strive to provide the chimps with an enrichment program that balances variety and predictability, which is a never-ending challenge. The result is that we work hard each day to facilitate a range of new experiences for the chimpanzees within the framework of a regular schedule. Knowing what’s going to happen next helps the chimps to plan ahead, make choices, and be agents of their own comfort and happiness.
With so many new events occurring at the sanctuary, sticking to a familiar routine also seems to help the chimps adjust to each change. For example, even though Jamie and the Girl Gang are now residing in a previously unfamiliar area of the Chimp House, we still provide them with their favorite enrichment items at the same time each morning, serve their meals on the same schedule, and open the hydraulic gate each day so that they can explore Young’s Hill.
We’ve had some perfect fall weather for the past few days, and the Girl Gang (Annie, Foxie, Jamie, Jody and Missy) have been eagerly spending time outdoors. Just this weekend, J.B. and a group of committed volunteers built a new multi-level wooden structure on Young’s Hill. As Kelsi noted yesterday, the females were quick to investigate this new addition to their habitat. Even though nobody modified or enhanced the structure overnight, the girls needed some extra time today to reacquaint themselves with the new tower.
The new structure is located near the entryway into the chute. Now that they’re in the new area, Jamie and the others access Young’s Hill via the chute and therefore begin their patrols over on the southeast corner of the enclosure. Even though their patrols no longer start over by the Greenhouse door, they still walk in the same clockwise direction as they have since they first started exploring the Hill almost a decade ago. I have never seen them patrol in a counterclockwise direction. Just a few days ago, I jokingly asked J.B. if we could try to get Jamie to walk counterclockwise around the Hill with us. He dryly answered “No. You can’t do that.” We agreed that Jamie has a routine and it would be a crime to disrupt it.
So, when I opened the hydraulic door and the chimps hustled out of the chute onto the Hill, the unthinkable happened.
Anna and I were quite stunned when all five of the females started plodding their way uphill along the southeastern boundary of the enclosure. Missy led the charge, of course, but Jamie seemed a bit apprehensive about the whole thing. She started to follow the others, then fell behind, and was soon looking back at Anna (who was watching the events unfold from outside the electrified fence).
Sure enough, Jamie returned to the bottom of the slope and began to patrol in her normal clockwise pattern, gesturing at Anna to follow along. She encountered the others about halfway up the northwestern boundary and it was hella awkward. As Jamie trudged past each of the others, they had to stop and greet each other with a touch and a chimp kiss. Then they all just stood there, lined up along the fence, and watched her defiantly continue up the slope on her own.
Jamie seemed a little off after that, because she abandoned her patrol, ditched Anna in favor of the Twister, and cut straight through the bamboo forest on her way back to the chute. Jamie can handle wildfires, social integrations and even snakes, but going counterclockwise around the Hill is too much.
This exemplifies the power of routine. Some chimps, such as Jamie, have personalities that seem to thrive on discipline and repetition. She likes to be in control. She did three patrols today, walking at the same pace in the same clockwise direction using the same path. The other four females, who tend to be more easygoing, didn’t seem scared by the idea of hiking the trail backwards.
Of course, there is the possibility that Jamie, like Derek Zoolander, cannot turn left. Let’s not rule that out.
A new structure was built today! We had a wonderful group, Thrivent Financial, come out and build this two-story deck! The chimps anxiously waited to see how it would turn out.
These awesome volunteers worked so hard throughout the entire day:
Before it was finished:
We are so excited for this structure. I can imagine Negra lounging in the shade while warm summer air breezes by her or Foxie playing with her dolls at the top! I can also envision Mave, Willy B, & Honey B concurring their fears and climbing up this sturdy structure!
Jamie, Jody, Foxie, Missy, & Annie were able to go out and explore on the new play structure. Of course, a new structure means someone has to inspect it, which is what Jamie and the rest of the girls did!
After inspection, there were patrols to do:
And than back on the the new play structure. The girls seem to be in approval of it!
Even Foxie who can be suspicious of new things, was hanging out!
We just want to give Thrivent Financial a big thank you for building this amazing structure!
It is winnnndy! The chimps had a very leisure day playing, napping, and watching J.B. and a few volunteers start building a new structure out on Young’s Hill! They are just getting a section of the project done today and than another group of volunteers will come tomorrow to help us build the rest of the structure. Normally I would expect the chimps, especially Jamie, to be out in the chute inspecting everything that was going on. However, it was so windy no one wanted to be outside really. Jamie did watch from the windows and the comfort of her own nest.
Jamie watching from the mezzanine:
Jody cozy in a nest:
Missy curled up:
The crew working hard and trying not to get blown away: