If you are not already a big fan of Burrito, you should be after watching today’s video. Seriously, he has been non-stop playful lately. He’s definitely a bright light during these difficult times!
This post was originally about family. I was writing it in my head throughout the day. I was going to talk about how the chimpanzees at the sanctuary are really a lot like other families because they did not choose to be together, but they had to figure out their relationships and find the things they liked about each other.
More words, hopefully an interesting insight, blah, blah, blah.
Then I watched the video clips that I had taken and I was fascinated just by the way the different chimpanzees in the clips moved.
If you’ve ever been hanging out at a race to cheer on a friend or relative running, I’m sure you were surprised by the variation in the way that human beings move their bodies when they are running. There are a few people who look natural and graceful while running, but most of us are a bit on the awkward side of things when it comes to speedy locomotion. I think the same can be said for chimpanzees.
We primates will not be mistaken for cheetahs anytime soon, but we do okay getting from one place to another, and sometimes, like Missy and Burrito and Jody and Foxie in the video above, we can have fun doing it.
Bonus photo of Annie’s sporty look today:
I am not very nostalgic, and I’m quite bad at remembering and acknowledging anniversaries and birthdays within my personal life (sorry friends and family).
I’m also not the most patient person. I tend to just plow ahead into the future, driven by a feeling of urgency that time is passing and there’s a lot to get done.
Today, however, I was struck with some deep nostalgia thanks to Facebook reminding me of a post I made on my personal page this day twelve years ago.
It simply said, “is anxiously awaiting seven chimpanzees”
(this was back when many people bizarrely worded their Facebook status updates in the third person – it was a thing, it wasn’t just me).
Wow, did that memory ever bring back some feelings.
Here I’ve been plowing ahead in my usual fashion, anxiously preparing for our upcoming first-ever virtual event on Saturday, without taking the time to truly contemplate what the event is celebrating, all that has occurred between that date twelve years ago and now, and all of the people who have been a part of the sanctuary during those years.
This nostalgia drove me to the blog. I posted twice on the blog on this day twelve years ago.
The first post was a brief thanks to those who had attended our housewarming party days prior, an update that founder Keith and J.B. had visited the chimpanzees at Buckshire (J.B. had made a point of telling me that Negra was great and was going to love her new sanctuary home), and a reference to an article that has long since disappeared from the internet.
The second post was the first report from the road! Keith and J.B. were following the truck that was transporting the seven chimpanzees from Pennsylvania and the post included a photo of the truck and trailer that held those seven precious lives and one of Jody in the transport cage on the truck.
In just a few days we will be celebrating twelve years of sanctuary for this ragtag group of seven chimpanzees who have embedded themselves into the hearts of people who have gotten to know them both in person and at a distance through this blog.
We will be celebrating Queen Negra’s 47th birthday. We will be celebrating the addition of the three Californians who joined us less than a year ago.
And we will be celebrating all of forages, naps, play sessions, and adventures that the next year, and even the next twelve years, await these chimpanzees and future chimpanzees who will call Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest home.
I hope you will join this celebration, The Queen’s Brunch, on Saturday at 11:00am PT. You can set a reminder via Facebook right now. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to watch even if you don’t have a Facebook account.
Originally, Saturday’s celebration would have involved a party for the chimpanzees and a separate in-person gala event in Seattle for about 200 human attendees.
With the pandemic, we had to pivot to an online virtual celebration.
Our budgeted fundraising goal for the original in-person gala was $200,000. Not knowing when we pivoted (and still not knowing!) what to expect from a virtual event and what will come of our postponed gala very tentatively scheduled for September 18th, we set the fundraising goal for The Queen’s Brunch at a much more modest $50,000.
Thanks to everyone who has donated and bid on online auction items so far, we are inching towards half of that goal as I type this.
I’m still plowing forward because there’s a lot to be done and a lot at stake.
But I will certainly take a break to celebrate Honey B’s birthday tomorrow! In addition to all of the lovely details that Katelyn wrote about on Monday, did you know that Honey B has a particular nesting style? It’s related to her sarong-wearing that Katelyn mentioned. After creating her nest base, she takes a blanket and wraps her lower half in it, tucking herself in perfectly.
Then she’s ready for sleep
Thanks to Earthrated for the new cozy green blankets.
I will also take some time to think about just how much has transpired since the day that truck pulled up in the driveway with seven chimpanzees who had no idea what was ahead for them.
I will especially think about the last twelve years of sanctuary for the chimpanzee who will always be my queen.
This is one of the very first photos I took of Negra at the sanctuary:
And this is the photo that Anna took of her a few years ago that we’ve been using as part of the logo for The Queen’s Brunch (available in pillow form to buy now).
Thank you, thank you, thank you, to everyone who has been a part of her life and a supporter of the sanctuary at any point during the past twelve years and even before, when it was all just a dream.
Watch the video to see a few different sides of Willy B. You can bid on a photo of Willy B printed on metal that is available in our online auction right now. Just one week until the big virtual event!
Working with chimpanzees leads most people to think A LOT about humans. It’s so easy to see us in them and them in us because they are our closest living relatives. We share most of our DNA with them.
Many of our physical characteristics are the same, like our hands.
We watch chimpanzees and are buoyed by the love, compassion, and empathy that they exhibit on a daily basis, and sometimes curiously confused by their interactions. I will give you one example from the other day.
On Saturday, we were bracing for a big storm. There were warnings of thunder, lightening, hail, massive rainstorms, and strong winds. The storm didn’t turn out to be as dramatic in Cle Elum as elsewhere, but the sky started to look very ominous right around the chimps’ dinnertime. Kelsi went to serve dinner to the group of seven chimpanzees while I tried to close off the playroom to spot clean.
Suddenly, there was repeated and rather deafening alarm calls coming from the other side of the building. I went to check on things and found Mave looking out the window towards the valley below, emitting her loud vocal warnings. I don’t know what she saw, but I suspect it was lightening.
Kelsi was unable to convince Jody and Missy to go to the greenhouse for their dinner because they did not want to leave the common wall that the playroom shares with Mave’s rooms. They were visibly concerned about Mave’s vocalizations. Maybe they were concerned for Mave herself (I would bet this was the case for Jody) or maybe they were concerned that whatever Mave was clearly very anxious about was something they should be fearful of as well.
I gave up trying to close off the playroom and instead brought Honey B, Willy B, and Mave their dinner to the top floor of their housing, the area we refer to as the mezzanine. Mave continued her plaintive cries while Willy B and Honey B ignored her and waited for me to serve them dinner, which I did.
I also gave Mave some food, hoping that maybe sweet potato, carrots, and night bags would serve as a distraction to the imminent danger she seemed to be feeling. She did something I’ve never seen another chimpanzee do before; she took the food and continued to loudly alarm call in-between biting and swallowing.
Though I was amused by Mave’s ability to multi-task, I was distressed listening to her persistent calls. Honey B and Willy B, however, proceeded to ignore her. Perhaps they’ve seen Mave overreact before. Maybe they just really aren’t that empathetic – empathy is certainly a variable trait. Perhaps the sweet potatoes were just that good. Or maybe they just didn’t know what to do, so thought it was better to pretend that nothing was happening. After twenty minutes or so, Mave, though still acting wary and looking out the window, finally ceased alarm calling.
We see so much variability in personality across the chimpanzees, and we see the wide range of emotions that they are capable of as individuals and a species.
We understand, for example, that they can be incredibly violent. They can lash out at one another in an instant out of fear, insecurity, or even as a calculated method of obtaining or preserving power or gaining access to resources. We can see all of this and recognize that humans are no different. Some of us may have a shorter fuse than others, but we are all capable of horrific acts of aggression and unfathomable indifference. Like chimpanzees, violence is a small part of our lives as a whole, but it’s there. It’s part of our DNA, as they say.
Being very social primates, chimpanzees and humans not only can but need to form tight bonds with one another; this is how we survive in the literal sense and thrive as emotional beings even in our modern day existence.
Unfortunately, there is another side to forming tight social bonds, and that is seeing those outside of our social group as not-us, as others, as enemies.
Before I began working with chimpanzee Washoe and her family in 1998, I marveled at a story that Roger Fouts wrote about in the book Next of Kin. Washoe, who had been enculturated into a human environment and taught the signs of American sign language, did not meet another chimpanzee until she was five years old. When she was moved to a facility with other chimpanzees and woke up in a cage next to them, she was asked in sign language what they were and she called the other chimpanzees, “black bugs” and “black cats” – neither of which she liked at all.
Washoe eventually learned to accept her chimpanzee-ness and became the matriarch of a group of five. By the time I met her she was well versed in chimpanzee behavior and was more likely to dismiss the clearly inferior humans (myself included) than her adopted chimpanzee family members.
At least in part because of the influence of Dr. Fouts, I’ve long struggled with the idea that humans sit comfortably outside of the animal kingdom with a huge gulf between “us” and all of the other animals living and extinct. It’s not a very biologically sound view of our existence.
Far more academic people than myself have argued for years about the salient qualities that do separate us from our primate cousins. Some behaviors that scholars pointed to as elevating humans above other animals, like tool use, were shot down years ago, with more and more evidence recorded of non-humans using and adapting tools as times goes by.
There is something, however, that I think does distinguish humans as a species, at least until evidence is uncovered about the mysteries of animal communication. It’s what I’m doing right now – storytelling. Storytelling and the ability to record and share information across generations has dramatically changed how we go about living and how we interact with the world at large.
Combining our biological capacity to empathize and bond with others and our knack for storytelling, we humans should have an incredible leg-up on other species in how we view and treat one another. But this doesn’t seem to be the case. In fact, I think it’s possible our storytelling abilities might just be the end of us. Humans can and do use this communicative talent to rationalize or re-frame what we otherwise should collectively view as outrageous and unjust behavior.
With stories we can organize, expand, and amplify “us” and “them” groupings and allow our self- and group-protective instincts to vilify anyone who differs from the group we identify with, whether that identity is tied to our genealogy, geography, educational attainment, the amount of pigment in our skin, or any number of beliefs and preferences or arbitrary physical characteristics.
As a species we are experiencing a tragic period in our history. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t felt overwhelmed by sadness, anger, and anxiety these past few months. It would be wonderful if we could turn towards the positive aspects of being social primates. It would be great if we could really listen to each others stories. It would be amazing if we could all remember to recognize that our empathy needs to stretch far beyond our personal lived experience.
I am incredibly saddened by the violence inflicted on George Floyd in Minnesota and the fact that he is one in a long line of black people who have been viewed and treated as “them” by white people in power. I am glad that the story of his death is being told across the world.
I would like to believe that we as a species are on a trajectory of widening the narrow view of “us” that we individually hold onto to include beings that I can’t even imagine, but we have a really long way to go.
For today, I just hope we can figure out a way to understand and embrace our own collective humanity.
I hope this video brings you a smile and maybe inspires you to do something you want to try, even if you’re not sure you can do it.
Getting to know each individual and appreciate them for the unique chimpanzee people they are is an immeasurable joy.
The chimpanzees’ individuality and the opportunity that we have been given to get to know them is what we’ll be celebrating with The Queen’s Brunch! The virtual event is June 13th but bidding begins June 1st. Register NOW for no charge.
We love sharing the chimpanzees with all of the followers of Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest. Celebrate them with us!
What with Willy B venturing outside and Honey B really loosening up to be the unique and silly chimpanzee she is, perhaps we haven’t been highlighting Mave as much as the other two members of her trio lately.
Have no doubts, Mave continues to be marvelous.
We will be celebrating Honey B’s birthday on June 11th and Queen Negra’s on June 13th as part of The Queen’s Brunch virtual celebration and online auction.
I should pause here to mention that you should all go register (or log in if you’ve participated in past online auctions) RIGHT NOW to receive updates about the event.
I’ve just begun adding items to the site, including this original 16″ x 16″ oil painting of the one and only Mave by the one and only Margaret Parkinson!
More items will be uploaded in the coming weeks. You can pre-buy a VIP Party Box today with a chance to win something special, so definitely check that out!
Ok, back to Mave. We will be celebrating her birthday this Wednesday (May 27th)! This will be her first birthday at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, and we can’t wait to honor her.
Speaking of honor, here are some photos that Mave allowed me to take of her today: