It got down to freezing last night, but by the time the chimpanzees were ready for breakfast it was warm and dazzlingly sunny outside. My neighbor and her incredible grandmother of a lilac tree graciously allow me to bring blossoms galore for the chimps to enjoy each year, so today was their first taste of the brief lilac season with a breakfast forage on the hill.
Negra’s food squeaks could be heard across the land, though she was all about the chow:
Missy joined her, but she was all about the lilacs:
Then Jody joined in, but she was all about the fruit. So it worked out well for everyone:
No one seems to outdo Missy’s love of lilacs, but each year it seems someone new is suddenly interested in them and much to my surprise, this year Foxie was really enjoying them. Her face!! Guh, my heart!:
After the seven returned to the chimp house later in the morning, it was time for the three to have access to their courtyard! And of course to wait with bated breath as to what Willy B (or Mave or Honey B) might decide to do today. We put the forage a little bit further out on the platform, with some high value items (a bunch of grapes and a whole apple) the furthest out to encourage Willy B’s continued courage at venturing into the great outdoors. And it worked! It took him a little bit to drum up his courage, but he went the furthest he’s been today!
We are careful not to overwhelm them with our presence and want to decrease their worry that something unexpected will happen, so right now we try to have 1-2 staff stay nearby, but in a bit of stealth mode. J.B. managed to get these photos and look at this guy! Willy B! Outside!:
Getting a little more comfortable:
We really cannot impress the level of courage this involves. Imagine leaving the comforting familiarity of the only thing you’ve known, enclosures with caging, and then stepping onto a strange platform, under open sky, surrounded by strange feeling wood chips. Every single sensation something new and strange and potentially very frightening and unpredicatable. Some chimpanzees, understandably so, are never comfortable enough to leave their enclosures. We’re just so proud of this guy our hearts are ready to burst!
And while we weren’t able to capture any photos, Mave decided to venture down to the doorway to the platform today! She saw Willy B enjoying all that forage and while she wasn’t ready to go out, she did reach out at one point on her own and touch the platform. She spent quite awhile at the doorway sitting with Willy B (and probably admiring his food) and we have high hopes she will be next to take a step outside. I know that may not seem like much, but for someone who’s first time touching the earth under open sky to have been a bit rocky (after touching the electric fencing), it’s taking an incredible amount of bravery for these guys to give it another go. Honey B is not yet showing any interest, but she has all the time she needs to choose what feels best for her.
Once the chimps came back inside later in the afternoon Willy B was the craziest, most playful guy. We always say we can’t know what they are thinking, but honestly, it really felt as though he was just elated with himself at the adventure he’d conquered. As well he should be.
And last, but not least, our bovine family continue to revel in their newfound summer pastures. Here’s Nutmeg with Honey licking Betsy in the background: