Jamie is always aware of what the humans are up to and doesn’t shy away from sharing her opinions.
I love Jamie’s dominant personality and respect her autonomous attitude, but satisfying her desires for choice and control is a continuous challenge given the limitations of her captive environment. I am grateful that her outspoken honesty provides some insight into how she perceives her world, allowing us to tailor our caregiving to her preferences. Not all chimps express satisfaction and displeasure quite like she does, accepting a new piece of enrichment with a deep grunt or telling us not to close a door by waving her arm at us. This candid rapport between Jamie and human is extremely beneficial when we engage the chimps socially; Jamie can say “go ahead” or “not now” in her own special way and still be understood.
Jamie demonstrated her forthright demeanor as I was photographing the chimpanzees in her wing of the facility earlier today. I saw her sitting on the bench in Front Room 4, a small indoor area with a good amount of natural light. I saw that she had a single raisin daintily held between her lips and approached to take some photos. Before raising my camera to my face, I pointed to the bulky device and politely asked “Can I take your portrait?” I’m not sure if Jamie understood my request word-for-word, but she nodded eagerly in response. I pressed the shutter over and over again as she patiently stared back into the curved glass of my 85mm lens for what felt like minutes. We exchanged another friendly nod before I moved on to a different location.
I passed Jamie’s perch again as I circled back to the foyer and presented the camera to her again. This time, she ignored my inquiry and just stared back. I had just lifted the viewfinder to eye level with my finger and taken the first two exposures when Jamie suddenly threw her arm up in my direction. I took it as a casual but clear signal that patience for my creative exploits had waned and her participation in the photo shoot was over.
If you’re wondering where Jamie got the raisin…