Bedtime stories! We received several wonderful questions from Diana’s recent blog post, “Inviting your questions,” about the chimpanzees’ bedtime routines!
We run a pretty tight ship here for a variety of reasons. In part, because we have a lot we need to complete each day! Another reason is because, as you might imagine, it’s really important for former lab chimpanzees, or anyone living in captivity, to have a routine in which they know what to expect and when to expect it. And while we still allow for, and adjust the routine to suit the chimpanzees’ choices, it definitely helps facilitate our ability to do things such as shifting the chimpanzees out of areas we need to enter to clean each day when they know what’s happening.
So with that in mind, we serve dinner at 4:30 and believe me, the chimpanzees’ don’t need a clock to tell us what time it is! (As a sidenote, with daylight savings time happening soon, this will be changing to 3:30. We humans adjust our schedules with daylight savings in order to allow the chimpanzees to have the maximum amount of outdoor access with daylight they can, so while we work from 9:00 am-5:30 pm in the spring/summer, we “fall back” to 8:00-4:30 for autumn/winter). While someone serves the chimps their dinner in the greenhouse or front rooms, the lead caregiver for the day takes the opportunity to spot clean the playroom (where the seven tend to sleep), put out extra blankets for night nests (we pass out at minimum 70+ blankets each day) and distribute their after-dinner evening enrichment (food puzzles!). At the end of dinner we hand out night bags (small bags full of nuts, seeds, dried fruit and popcorn) and just about the time they finish these, the playroom is about ready for them to be given access to again for the night. Once they’re given access, they are pretty excited about searching out their puzzles. Then when they’re done with their puzzles they promptly start building their night nests. The chimpanzees are typically all in bed by the time we wrap up the day (with the exception of boss lady, Jamie, who is very busy).
Where do they sleep? By nature, chimpanzees are arboreal sleepers and in the wild they climb trees and build nests each night by tucking and weaving the branches around them. Only mothers and infants share nests so while our resident chimpanzee friends are weaving nests of blankets, none of them share a nest, though they will often sleep near one another. They usually all build their nests upstairs along the windows (maybe their version of climbing up a tree, they have a good view, and it’s extra warm up there!). Though they have separate nests, Annie and Missy do have an endearing habit of occasionally weaving their individual nests together into a figure eight. You can kind of see it here (they are super fluffy right now with all the amazing blankets people have been donating!):
Willy B on a shelf in the front rooms:
Sigh…Willy B is a handsome devil:
Here’s Honey B in her amazing night nest! A very sweet thing that she does once she lies down in the middle of her nest is to pull a blanket up to her chest, tucking herself in:
I wanted to have photos of everyone in their nests, but you know, it just doesn’t go that way when you plan for it, so hopefully this has given you an idea. Important bedtime notes!
- Mave, Honey B and Willy B are people who go to bed early! (Like me!) Once they are in bed, they expect the lights to be turned off, the door to close and the humans to get out.
- Burrito operates on “go” all. day. long. But once he’s in bed, he also expects lights and humans out! He gets furious with us on those long summer nights with Jamie or when we go in to do a final chimp count for the night (to make sure everyone is accounted for, safe, sound and secure) if he happens to be in bed. I’ve tried countless times to capture the look on his face! He literally stares at us, incredulous, and angrily waves his arm at us clearly saying, “Get outta here!” I know, it’s impossible to believe until you’ve seen it and though we apologize to him profusely it makes us giggle every time.
- Foxie often has a bedtime routine of playing pass the troll/doll with her caregivers until she’s ready to fall asleep. Sometimes I will be quietly walking down the human hallway getting ready to lockup when “plink!” Orange Marmalade drops down from the heavens above, landing in front of me. I’ll look up only to see Foxie’s toes and fingers through the caging, wiggling and waiting for me to toss her doll back up to her. Also, Foxie is one person who still has no interest in building a nest. She prefers, for her own reasons, to shirk any blankets, often aggressively pushing them aside, and chooses to sleep on a shelf or just enjoy the heated floors. It’s emotionally appealing for us to envision her in a cozy nest, but she chooses as she pleases and her and her doll du jour seem happy curled up together, which is all that matters. And yes, she sleeps with her dolls every night.
- And this brings us to the boss. Jamie’s bedtime routine is that she wants her chosen boots and books passed through the food chute to her before we go. Sometimes she takes this time to groom with us, have us model the boots, or look at her books with her. But just as often she takes them and carries on with her own agenda for the evening while everyone else is in bed. As I mentioned earlier, she is often the only one still awake when we leave for the night. She’s busy, you know. The boss’s work is never done. She reads, scouts around to see if any food puzzles still have any treats missed earlier, or sometimes just enjoys her solitude in the greenhouse for awhile, listening to the night sounds, holding her boots, thinking whatever amazing thoughts we all know she has rumbling around in that amazing head of hers.
Here she is earlier today looking at her newest book about apes. She tears out very specific pages she finds fascinating and carries them around or nests with them. It’s one of my favorite things to see what we find the next day in her nest, what her interests are:
For the past two days, she’s been particularly fascinated with this page:
The final thing for the evening is lights out and it’s one of my favorite moments with the chimpanzees. Why? Because of nest grunts! I had a recording of this that I posted on FB ages ago and have to dig up as it’s just not something I usually have the phone out for. But it’s a vocalization that chimpanzees make to one another from their night nests. A way of checking in with one another for the night, saying all is well. Kind of like a chimpanzee version of the decades old show, “The Waltons,” where everyone in the family yelled goodnight to one another when the lights went out. And so it is here. We turn the lights out and whether we say goodnight in English or chimpanzee, nest grunts echo and build throughout the chimp house until all falls quiet. I say “I love you. Rest well and we’ll see you all in the morning.”
As far as morning goes, the chimpanzees are mostly awake by the time the humans arrive and either sleepily playing with one another, quietly enjoying the morning sunshine in the greenhouse or view from the window, or still curled into their warm nests until breakfast is served (this if often where you will find Negra and Missy). This is another favorite time of my day as the chimpanzees are typically all really joyful, excited to greet the humans, playfully wrestling and chasing one another as their excitement grows for breakfast.
Hoping you all have an equally cozy night in your nests, grunting to loved ones near and far, resting with ease, dreaming in wonder.