Sometimes, the development of the sanctuary feels oddly like the plot of Field of Dreams. Instead of building a baseball diamond in the middle of an Iowa cornfield to attract the ghosts of early ballplayers, we’re constructing a facility in the foothills of the Cascades to rescue chimpanzees. It’s practically the same thing. “If you build it, chimps will come.”
Truthfully, the incremental growth of the sanctuary is serious work, and the immense contributions of specialized contractors is one aspect of the ongoing expansion effort that we don’t often highlight on our social media channels. Today, I’m using the daily blog to show some appreciation for their work.
We’ve had some great teams building various components of the new areas, from the foundation to the exterior paint. Recently, the crew from Sage Mechanical, LLC completed the hydraulic doors and steel caging in the new playroom enclosures (which now provide a comfortable indoor space for chimps) and resumed work on the adjacent greenhouses.
Sage Mechanical is based in Yakima and led by our friend Gary McInnis. The first project they completed for us was 2019’s “Phase 1” of the expansion effort (including the enclosures where Honey B, Mave and Willy B currently reside) and we’re happy to have them on board for 2020-2021’s “Phase 2.”
Carrying out an expansion project at a chimpanzee sanctuary can be difficult when the facility is already home to ten chimpanzees, but Gary’s squad has the right attitude for it; They’re always willing to work around the chimps’ schedules and preferences so that the construction causes minimal disruption to their daily lives. When not moving equipment around and welding things together, the guys are interested in the individual chimpanzees and are eager to learn more about them from the caregivers. His crew has also been great about following the stringent COVID-19 protocols designed to protect the chimps and human staff from possible exposure, which we require and greatly appreciate.
Although they don’t interact with the chimps directly, the people working on the new enclosures are not completely separate. For example, the chimps living in adjacent enclosures and the guys on Gary’s team can watch each other through the bulletproof playroom windows. Occasionally, the chimps will even greet the crew members when they show up for work in the morning. The chimps seem to have habituated to the presence of Gary and his “regular” crew of Aaron, Jim and Jose, and it seems like the ongoing construction can be a form of environmental enrichment for them. We also ensure that the chimps have access to other areas so they aren’t forced to be within view if they prefer otherwise.
Currently, Honey B, Mave and Willy B have front-row seats for the assembly of the new greenhouses. Much like the existing greenhouse enclosure on the other side of the building, the new areas will be multi-level outdoor environments that can be enclosed with solar-radiant panels in the cooler months. Each area will be furnished with organic substrate, live bamboo, wood climbing features, hanging firehose “vines,” and elevated platforms.
The coolest aspect of the new greenhouses will be the central structures, allegedly modeled after the Ewoks’ treetop village from Return of the Jedi. Yesterday, the chimps watched as welders Aaron and Jose built the frame for one of these platforms. We can’t wait to see the chimpanzees explore and grow comfortable in the latest addition to their home!
P.S. This blog’s honorary title is “Hunt for the Welder-people.” This is Chad’s work, but it was too good to leave out. We both love the referenced film.