Chimpanzee smiles are one of the greatest things to see. Granted let’s not confuse a true chimpanzee smile with a fear grimace. What most humans recall when they think of a chimpanzee smile are those usually found on cards or advertisements. Usually a juvenile chimpanzee dressed up in some costume, and full teeth showing with the edges of their mouth going from ear-to-ear. For those of us who work with or study chimpanzees, fully showing the upper and bottom rows of their teeth is the indication they are fear grimacing. Chimpanzees use the grimacing to show that something is causing them anxiousness or fear, or to show off their impressive canine teeth to intimidate another.
A true chimpanzee smile, one used for play and enjoyment, only the bottom teeth are usually exposed. I say usually because there are occasions where something may be super exciting or really funny is too hard to contain. In these circumstances, other chimpanzee behaviors are looked for such as laughter, breathy pants, etc. But once we, as caregivers, confirm they are indeed chimpanzee smiles, and if directed toward us, it makes the day so much brighter.
Here are a few I was able to capture of Mave. Both the lead up and the actual smiles.
First was last week as I entered the Willy B, Honey B, and Mave’s side of the building. She really wanted to play an interaction called “shoe tickle.” As J.B. described in his blog a few weeks back, “shoe tickle” is when the chimpanzees fully extend their fingers through the mesh and can only touch the bottoms of our shoes with just the tips of their fingertips. This is to avoid them grabbing us in some way.
Then there is this sequence from Sunday of her in serious play mode.
Yesterday I was able to catch Honey B’s smile during a play session as well!
(Note the coloration of Honey B’s eyelids! It’s one of the many, many, many things I love about her that makes her unique!)
I tried to round this off by getting some photos of Willy B’s smile and play face. However, as some of you know, he is really difficult to get photos of. Either he’s too close for the cameras we have on hand, or he stops doing what he’s doing if a phone is brought out. Though Willy B is serious about 85% of the day, the other 15% he can really be a goofball. Though most of the time he doesn’t showcase a smile or play face, once in a while he’ll let one slip and it’s amazing!
I tried to supplement it with someone who almost always has a smile on his face and can be heard throughout the sanctuary laughing nearly 95% of the day.
Though Burrito spends nearly the entire day laughing and playing, it actually can be difficult to get photos of his smile. But this is what I could get.
Hopefully these smiles brightened up your day as they do ours!
When you’re smilin’, keep on smilin’ and the world smiles with you.”