This post is both about the great staff at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest and about the chimpanzees who they care for; the chimpanzees who lead the way towards embracing challenges and demonstrating resiliency.
I’ve been incredibly impressed with our staff during the last few of years of challenges and uncertainty. We’ve done some hard things and been faced with difficult decisions, and the staff have embraced it all and moved forward with hope.
The most recent challenge has been starting introductions between the two groups of chimpanzees from Wildlife Waystation.
There are risks involved in introducing chimps to one another, risks we have experienced firsthand. It would be easy to decide to just not try, to keep things as they are. But the staff realize that the benefits to the chimpanzees’ welfare far outweigh the risks.
The chimpanzees themselves have already given us glimpses of these benefits – male friends for WillyB! So many new grooming partners for Mave! Half-sisters to play with Honey B! Lucky, Cy, Terry, Gordo, Rayne, and Dora could also benefit from living in a larger group with more choices for social partners.
I’ve been incredibly impressed with how the chimpanzees have reacted to the initial one-on-one introductions. Each of them have been able to overcome any anxiety in meeting those in the other group. In fact, they have embraced the opportunity, sometimes making it difficult to get the pairs we want because there are chimps who stay in the room, attempting to be the one who is next in line for an introduction.
Chimpanzees are amazing that way.
While we humans live in our heads much of the time, worrying and wondering, chimpanzees most often assess the situation and pretty quickly dive in. It’s not that they can’t think ahead – they certainly can. And it’s not that they never experience worry – for sure they do. But when something goes awry or they encounter something unexpected, they are usually able to quickly reassess and adjust, or just turn to the next good thing they know is coming, like pears for dinner.
While it’s true that Burrito is a very special being in so many ways, his ability to bounce back is a trait he shares with many of his species. Chimpanzees are tough, both physically and mentally. Sadly, that is one reason they were used so readily in biomedical research.
I’ve been particularly impressed with Rayne’s group and how they have so quickly adjusted to their new home. They marched in and claimed their space, quickly finding favorite spots and embracing the sanctuary’s routine.
J.B. shared yesterday that the new group was given access to the Chute for the first time this week. And he let you in on a secret: many (perhaps even the majority of) chimpanzees LOVE cage tunnels, choosing to spend time in them over larger areas that humans might describe as more “natural” looking.
This might be a good time to remind everyone of this blog post which is subtitled Caging is OK.
It’s not up to us to decide for chimpanzees in captivity what areas are their favorites; it’s up to us to provide them with variety and give them the choice to decide for themselves. For now, Lucky’s group has clearly decided that the Chute is awesome, even when they have access to the new beautiful greenhouses with grass and bamboo.
Today when we were cleaning, I snapped a couple of photos of all six chimpanzees in the Chute. I couldn’t even tell where one chimpanzee began and another ended. Gordo was the only one not in the chimpanzee puddle at the top of the Chute, instead laying claim to the spot closest to the end.
At another point during the day, I found brother and sister Cy and Lucky lying next to each other, facing opposite directions at the top of the Chute:
While Dora was trying out a small perch for a bed:
Thank you to all of the wonderful chimpanzees at CSNW who embrace change, find their thing, and power through the challenges towards the good times that may be just out of sight, but are surely there. Thank you to the staff who do the same. And thank you to all of you for reminding us, with your comments and support, what a special mission we have.
Carol Sceniak says
how is sweet Jamie taking the new neighbors?I love her with all my heart?:monkey_face:
Jamie has been pretty calm about the neighbors, overall. She makes sure to display and make noise so they know she’s a boss, but she also quietly watches them. I think she enjoys her patrols even more now that she has an at-a-distance audience.
Edie Bruce says
This is such a great post! One of the things I love the best about the sancturary is how the
chimps get to choose what to do as often as possible- it’s such a wonderful thing. It is also interesting that they
love cage tunnels so much-they sure look comfortable up there! Do they naturally feel safer up high? Do they have some old wisdom in their bones of the safety of trees?
Linda C says
Wow, Diana, sitting room only in that chute@
Pear season already!? have we been through Annie’s sunflowers yet!? Jamie must be over the moon about the pears!
I can remember as a kid far prefering the tree house to the “real” house. We’d have 10 kids crammed into that tiny rickity space. I’m not even sure why we loved it so much, and chose to spend so many hours there, and begged to be allowed to sleep there. It wasn’t safety, we were very safe in our homes and our community, so I do think it comes down to choice, having a place that was only ours, that the adults couldn’t get into, that we could use as we wished. Plus, it had a good view. So I can totally understand the allure of the chute!
What a connected and insightful blog post. Thank you for the window into your/their world. ?
The Chute provides two amenities which Dora and her troop might find useful: it is both elevated and it provides shade. After all, people like Lucky are arboreal creatures, and it is to their advantage to look about from on high and take in the view. Although it isn’t Southern California with its smog and congestion, perhaps folks like Cy and Co. will enjoy the view of the Cascades and the river valley.
Thank you Diana.
Reading todays blog, I can feel the love you have for chimpanzee and human people who live and work at CSNW. ( and of course You are one of them….)
True freedom is having the chance to choose.
Richard Tobias Ph.D. says
Particularly interested under what conditions does animus appear? See Jane Goodal on the Gombe war which lasted for yrs.
Ken Reiter says
Very nice, Diana.
Many thanks to all at CSNW!
I can see you may need to contact Mr. Gary McInnis of Sage Techanical and ask him to construct some more chutes! Perhaps a new chute for the Seven too?! I think it super wonderful that Lucky’s gang took so quickly to the chute. I am sending over heartfelt thanks to each and every staff member for all you do everyday to ensure the sanctuary residents (and the wild ones too!) live a happy, healthy, peaceful existence. You are all amazing.
Linda C says
well, the original 7 DO have the “raceway” ….that’s a kind of tunnel, it’s just not elevated
Yes, I truly admire chimps’ in so many ways. I love the chimp puddle!”?
Dawn Durbin says
While I love seeing individual chimps being chimps…..that ” chimp puddle ” just made my day!!! Love these chimps. And love you guys for taking such careful care of them.
Very thoughtful blog as usual, Diana. I was wondering if the Lucky Six have a pecking order…I’m sure they do! Who gets fed first, etc, like the Seven? And does Chad have to come up with any distractions like Willy B’s mirror?
Carol – Cy is thought to be the leader of the group of six, though he is extremely mellow. Rayne is thought to be quite dominant. Dora has been described as the lowest in the hierarchy, but chimpanzee hierarchy can be fluid and context-dependent. We have had to implement a similar strategy as Willy B’s mirror/station for Gordo. Gordo steals food from EVERYONE else in his group, given the chance. It turns out he took to stationing very well, just like Willy B.
Your staff is so devoted to the residents. It is a demanding job in the best of times.
Thank you all for the hard work!