There were a couple of questions recently about Annie and Missy and if they knew each other before arriving to the sanctuary. Yes, they did! Before coming to the sanctuary, the seven were in the custody of the Buckshire Corporation, a facility in Pennsylvania that leases (they are still in business) animals to labs across the country for biomedical research. If you’re new to the blog, you may not be aware that the seven were used in biomedical research for thirty years prior to being retired here. At the time CSNW learned of the seven they were the last remaining chimpanzees at Buckshire and no longer being used in research; however, they had been housed together in a windowless basement for a couple of years, that we know of.
Though their cages were all lined up in a row next to one another, they didn’t all share an enclosure together until toward the end of their stay there. When space requirements for chimpanzees living in captivity changed, the facility determined they could meet the requirement by just opening the doors between the cages as opposed to building a new and larger enclosure for them. So, long story still somewhat long, when Annie, Missy, Jamie, Foxie, Burrito, Negra and Jody arrived (and yes, they all arrived with their names) at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, they’d already been living together and had had the time to work out their hierarchical structure and relationships to some degree. Which definitely made things easier for all involved!
Annie and Missy have been best friends for as long as we’ve known them. Missy is more confident and she is a master at chimpanzee politics. She knows exactly what she needs to do to stay on the boss’s good side, while still managing to covertly get what she wants, or when it’s just best to just move on. She’s also much more comfortable interacting with the other chimps. While Annie is considered the least dominant in the group (though her wonderful independence and moxie grows by the day), this holds true in her relationship with Missy as well.
Though they are very close, Missy has no problem pulling rank on Annie if she is so inclined, which typically involves food. For example, someone also asked about serving order within the group, particularly with these two as they had heard one of us in a video ask Missy if it was okay to serve Annie first. So yes, as far as the group goes, being the self-appointed boss, we typically offer Jamie her servings first. (With Willy B, Honey B and Mave, it’s Willy B who is usually served first). After Jamie, we might offer Missy and Jody their servings next and just kind of work our way along to Annie. I feel like over the years as the chimpanzees learned to trust that we understand the “rules” and have grown and developed their own relationships, it’s a little more relaxed, generally speaking. Jamie is still typically first, but it’s often the squeaky, raspberry-blowing, cage-banging, wheel who is next in line. Or the person who follows the server up and down the line, discreetly sticking their hand through the crowd (Annie is very good at this!). And I often find if I simply ask a more dominant chimpanzee if I can serve someone else first, they’re typically okay with it at this point. If they aren’t, they will absolutely let us know!
And where this probably happens the most often is with Missy and Annie. Missy often has eagle eyes on Annie at mealtimes and Annie is acutely aware of this. Being the least dominant, she will commonly look around before taking her serving to make sure it’s okay with the group. Missy can be calmly eating her serving all the while staring, unflinchingly at Annie. Sometimes it stops there, other times, if she feels the need to exert her dominance for whatever reason, all she has to do is grunt at Annie and that’s it, Annie will wait until Missy approves, or the coast is clear. And other times a screaming match ensues and Missy steps in to take Annie’s serving. (But don’t feel too bad for her, she’s excellent at boldly taking food from others if she has the chance!).
Why just yesterday I stood at the play room door watching Annie as she sat quietly on the steps looking around during a forage. Missy was sitting upstairs on the catwalk just above Annie, enjoying her food puzzle. Annie picked up what couldn’t have been anything more than a nutshell and BOOM! Missy screamed like a banshee and get this, took a flying leap off the catwalk into mid-air (picture my eyes bugging out of my head here) and for a nano second I thought she was going to catapult herself onto Annie, but she landed just above her on the stair railing! Annie screamed at the top of her lungs (who could blame her?) and fear-grimacing (this looks like a human smile with top and bottom teeth showing, but demonstrates fear or high-arousal), held her hand out to Missy in a submissive gesture for reassurance. Missy was seemingly satisfied that she’d put the fear of well, herself, into Annie and that her message had been received and then all was well. Nobody said the life of a chimpanzee is anything less than complicated. But, the same goes for humans, after all, if not more so.
While this might sound terrible to us, this is completely normal behavior for chimpanzees and an important part of their social structure. Of course, we always make sure that everyone gets enough food, but even as servers it’s important to respect their rules and follow their leads. It’s their business, not ours, and it’s imperative they work things out between themselves because they have to live together.
But that’s just one example of chimpanzee society and one aspect of Annie and Missy’s relationship. Annie and Missy spend most of their time by far, playing the most joyous, raucous games of chase, or relaxed, slow-motion wrestle while resting next to each other, or just enjoying one another’s company. They tend to build their night nests next to one another, sometimes even into a figure eight. If there’s a fight, Annie is the first to have Missy’s back, always. She is the most loyal friend you could ask for. Unfortunately, the same can’t always be said in the reverse, but Missy is where Annie runs for reassurance which she almost always receives. For the most part, where you find one, you will endearingly find the other.
Here are two more peas in a pod spotted on Young’s Hill today, captured by Chad. Good friends, Burrito and Foxie:
As another example of how complicated chimp society can be, that cute little half ear that Foxie is sporting is a result of her dear friend there, Burrito, having bitten it off in a fight awhile ago. And yet, while we humans looked on in horror and concern, within minutes Foxie and Burrito were calmly grooming one another and making amends. While I can’t say I’d care to have my ear bitten off, one of the things I envy about chimps is how they don’t hesitate to express themselves, but then they move on.
At one point, Foxie decided she and Orange Blossom were ready to move along and head up the hill. But this guy was just sitting in the path, totally unconcerned about being in the way! Now obviously Foxie couldn’t be asked to just step off the beaten path, into the pokey grass and around this guy. But that would never stop Foxie! We watched her literally climb OVER Burrito and then carry on her way:
Pretty pleased with herself:
Inside scoop: Though the chimpanzees arrived with their names, did you know that Burrito was originally called, Raj? While we have no idea how he wound up with the name Burrito, I don’t think any of us could imagine calling him Raj.
Well, we’re sure grateful for all of you out there. I’m not sure we could ever express just how much. Regardless of what this holiday week holds for you, may you find a little joy and ease, a little beauty and grace to keep your hearts buoyed and light. If even for a minute. Nurture your joy. Just as you help make possible in the chimpanzees’ lives.