Originally, I planned on writing a blog post for today by following my classic recipe of egregiously bad puns, unnecessary history/science lessons, and some recent photographs of the sanctuary and its residents. In particular, I was going to share a series of images that would convey to everyone just how much snow we have piled around us after “Snomageddon” (and how hard we’re working to keep our paths and entrances clear). I’ve still included those photos here, but Willy B actually stole today’s blog with some mischievous behavior.
Before I elaborate on Willy’s exploits, I’ll have to provide a little context. In the newer wing of the Chimp House, the two former Wildlife Waystation groups reside in two sets of enclosures that essentially mirror each other; this layout enables each group to have access to a playroom, greenhouse, and either the mezzanine or front rooms for most of the day. We try to briefly close the chimps out of each area for daily cleaning, sometimes requiring us to play a weird version of Rush Hour to get things done. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with different strategies when I’m responsible for operating doors and shifting chimps around, and I have had some luck with a new shifting pattern in recent weeks. With all that promise, it was only a matter of time before I fell on my own sword.
This morning, everything initially went well and all the chimps shifted for breakfast. Amid the second round of shifting, during which Honey B usually decides to employ the filibuster to stall our caregiver agenda, it was actually Willy B who derailed my plans.
I had just successfully rotated Honey B, Mave and Willy B into the clean front rooms and invited the six chimps in the neighboring group to cross over from one playroom to the other. In that moment, Willy grabbed one of the bulky rocker toys in Front Room 5 and started drumming on it, causing the whole building to quake with every hit.
Chimps are generally quite preoccupied with their neighbors and are susceptible to social contagion (scientists call this combination the “Neighbor Effect“), so you can imagine the pandemonium that can evolve from one chimp’s abrasive behavior. In today’s case, the whole sanctuary stopped what they were doing to monitor Willy’s incessant banging with the utmost concern. With so much to be worried about, the six chimps in Cy’s group milled around the accessible spaces, occasionally responding with short outbursts of their own while completely ignoring my invitation to switch playrooms. Still, Willy B kept beating on the available surfaces at the expense of our eardrums.
It’s known that chimpanzees display for various reasons (to influence their group members, advertise their fitness, express their emotional state, cope with tension, etc.), but its difficult to identify a clear motive for any single occurrence of this behavior. Thus, we can’t know what caused Willy B to ceaselessly drum on the furniture today, but we can attest that he continued to do so for the better part of an hour while we all tried to stave off headaches. Perhaps his ultimate goal was simply to spice the morning up with a bit of mayhem.
Eventually, we were able to entice Cy’s group out of the messy playroom long enough to close it off, but it took quite a while to get to that point. Even once we had safely unlocked the enclosure, we had to clean them to the rhythm of Willy’s clamor. We expected that the display would culminate in some sort of conflict within the social groups, but Mave rescued them all from that fate. Amid a break in the commotion, Mave hooted, bounced over to Willy B, and pant-grunted right in his stoic face. Perhaps Willy had wanted that acknowledgement all along, or maybe he was simply growing tired and Mave had seized the opportunity to interrupt in the only way she knew how. Either way, the submissive pant-grunt punctuated the relentless drumming that was holding us all hostage, bringing Willy’s uproar to an end.
In addition to the embedded video, I’ve included the aforementioned photographs below. Be safe and have a good week, everyone!