There are many reasons to love summers in the Pacific Northwest. One of my favorites is something that the chimpanzees also enjoy: an abundance of native berries to snack on.
The raspberry bushes that flank the Chimp House are not new. They were planted many moons ago and have been maintained by dedicated staff and volunteers in the years since. Each summer, the chimps (and humans) seem to get more excited about them. It’s justified, because they’re the most delicious raspberries that I have ever had the privilege of tasting. I’d bet that the chimpanzees feel the same way.
Today, Jamie was especially insistent that humans should be harvesting raspberries and giving her the bounty. If you’re curious how Jamie communicates her demands, I recommend looking at Anna’s post from last summer. Today, Level III volunteer Lisa filled a stainless bowl with the prized berries and then served a handful to the chimps, including the moderately-patient Jamie. They were all thrilled, and we had plenty left over to make raspberry smoothies tomorrow morning. As Diana wrote a few years ago, we make sure that the chimpanzees are provisioned with healthy, unprocessed, species-appropriate foods like fruit, greens and legumes. As we grow larger and need to buy most of our produce in bulk for the chimps, it’s nice to know that there are seasonal treats nearby that the chimps can enjoy for nutrition and novelty.
Lisa, following our health and hygiene protocols, sported gloves, scrubs, and a mask while handling food and enrichment today. All personnel who work around the chimps have to do so with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) in order to prevent the exchange of viral pathogens between us and them. With COVID-19 potentially affecting captive and free-ranging apes, we have elevated our standard hygiene practices and dramatically reduced the amount of personnel present at the sanctuary each day. Normally, the raspberry patch would be a flurry of activity throughout the day as chatty groups of volunteers and interns lazily harvest in the sunshine. Because of our restrictions, however, we must find other ways to complete all the essential tasks with just a handful of personnel.
One permanently-essential task, of course, is play. This afternoon, after Lisa finished handing out fresh raspberries to all the chimps, Foxie coyly suggested that they should vigorously chase each other down the hallway. Foxie kept running from the Playroom into the front rooms and back again, pausing only to pass Lisa a doll, do a twirl, and zoom away again. Foxie, of course, relished a raspberry all the while.
The chimps don’t seem to have any sympathy for us caregivers who have to sprint around the building wearing cloth masks, scrubs and heavy boots, but it’s okay. I don’t think any of us mind breaking from our chores to pick raspberries and hang out with playful chimps.