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!