Honey B shows Mave how to escape when your hands are tied behind your back.
This morning, Mave was showing off some luxurious locks and a yearbook photo worthy pose. She is the coolest.
Those are the only photos I managed to get this morning, so I guess today is my day to clear out some photos from the old phone. Here’s Missy chomping on some sweet potato in the Greenhouse.
As you may have seen on yesterday’s blog, Anna has returned from her maternity leave and Chad has agreed to stay on as a permanent staff member. Here we are celebrating – it’s a sign of the times when you need to use panoramic mode to get all five people at a party in the same shot (Katelyn was working remotely).
People often refer to hay as either “cow hay” or “horse hay”. While these names can mean different things to different people, it’s usually the case that cow hay is of a lesser quality. Perhaps it got rained on before being baled or sat around for far too long. Cattle, it seems, are less sensitive than horses to molds and other impurities, but don’t let that make you think they aren’t picky. These four have very refined palates and they will boycott any hay that is not up to their standards. Conversely, when you bring the good stuff they will eat it right out of the Gator with such enthusiasm that you can’t even get it to their feeder.
When we built the foot box we had a hunch it would work but we needed to be sure before relying on it to diagnose an injury. So we threw a troll in the box. For science.
Chimpanzees can be melodramatic at times. When they display, become frightened, or get into spats, the hoots and screams can be deafening. It happens often enough that you become inured to the minor day to day scuffles and other assorted histrionics (looking at you, Annie and Mave). But you can tell when things become serious. And we could tell that someone was really mad.
The conflict began as the staff were walking up the driveway to the front gate. One second it was serene and peaceful, the next it was an absolute cacophony of screams. After about 30 seconds only a single voice remained, and as we entered we could see Jody walking through the playroom screaming – in anger, it seemed, but I would imagine also in shock and in pain. A closer look revealed a laceration across her right foot and a toe pointed in a decidedly wrong direction.
Chimps heal quickly and uneventfully from injuries that would leave me in the hospital. Serious lacerations often zip up within days without sutures and chimps may even take it upon themselves to straighten out a dislocated digit before anyone else can intervene. But injuries can also go undetected.
Thankfully, Jody is a cooperative patient. After isolating her in Front Room 1, we were able to use our new foot box along with portable x-ray equipment from Best Friends Mobile Veterinary Care (and a ton of grapes) to obtain awake x-rays. In doing so we discovered that, in addition to the dislocated third toe, she had a complete fracture of her fourth toe.
So along with pain medication and antibiotics, Jody was also booked for surgery. Dr. Erin and Dr. Erika treated Jody’s injuries this morning and conducted a full physical examination along with vaccinations. Jody was quickly moved back to recovery and before long was sitting up and even enjoying some snacks.
Examination of our closed circuit camera footage helped us understand how the injury occurred, but as is often the case, did not help explain why. The chimps are scattered throughout the playroom, many still in their nests from the night before. Foxie, standing in the loft, begins softly vocalizing and working up to a display. As her pant-hoots reach their crescendo, she charges across the bridge and attacks Burrito, who appears to be minding his own business on the opposite catwalk. Everyone leaps to their feet and begins to run and scream. Jody heads toward the conflict but tries to stay on the periphery. Soon, however, she is pulled across the bridge, her foot in Jamie’s mouth.
We’ve been primed in many ways to think of chimpanzee aggression in strategic terms – the epic struggles for dominance as beta males overthrow their aging leader or the clashes between communities as they vie for scarce resources. But aggression in captive chimpanzees will often leave you scratching your head as to its purpose. Why are Foxie and Burrito unscathed and seemingly still on good terms, while poor Jody bore the brunt of the violence? We can’t help but invent explanations for behavior – we’re wired to think that way. But so often we’re wrong. And the theories we develop can color our perceptions of future events in misleading ways. For example, if we didn’t have the closed circuit camera footage, I would have put money on Burrito playing some role in instigating that fight. Turns out the guy is just misunderstood.
Sometimes when we talk to colleagues at other sanctuaries, they will say things like “Oh, you have a biter in that group.” And sadly, we do. Many of them. Maybe all of them. In twelve years with the Cle Elum Seven, we’ve seen no consistent aggressors, no consistent victims, and no one that hasn’t had an ear, finger, or toe bitten during their time here – with the exception of Annie, suspiciously…
I wish we had a soap opera script explanation for these events, or that we could blame it on the weather or the moon, but if I’m being honest, they just happen sometimes. I’m just glad chimpanzees are tough.
So for the next few days Jody will rest up, take her medications, and eat lots of good food, and before long she will be back with her family. Jamie will probably welcome Jody’s return and tenderly groom the foot that she nearly chomped off. Nearby, Foxie and Burrito will play a quiet game of tickle as they sit in front of the sunny window where Foxie launched her attack. And life will go on for the Cle Elum Seven.
We haven’t had the drone out in a while so this morning I thought I’d take the opportunity to film the chimps on their post-breakfast patrol. Counterclockwise patrols are actually pretty rare for this group, but I think some early morning drama had Jamie and the gang itching to check on their neighbors.
In recent weeks, we’ve implemented a number of precautionary measures to prevent the chimpanzees from being exposed to the coronavirus. At the same time, we’re ramping up routine health monitoring to aid in early detection should a chimpanzee become ill. Thanks to years of positive reinforcement training, body temperatures can be collected quickly and easily at mealtimes. Chimps, like humans, exhibit individual variation in baseline temperatures and temperature readings vary depending on how they are obtained (no-contact, oral, rectal, armpit, etc.). But by collecting temperatures routinely and consistently we can notice trends that could indicate infection before other clinical symptoms appear.
Mave, Honey B, and Willy B, our newest residents, learned quickly and are also enjoying this daily routine!
Despite the increased workload due to our self-imposed quarantine restrictions, the sanctuary has been a kind of oasis lately. If you have to ride out a pandemic, you could do worse than to be stuck with these goofballs.
Many of you are likely wondering about the risk of the COVID-19 coronavirus to the chimps. This is something we are taking seriously, given our proximity to the known areas of community transmission in and around Seattle. While we don’t know precisely how this virus would affect a chimpanzee, we are determined not to find out. Staff and volunteers are following strict hygiene and disinfection protocols and wearing gloves and masks whenever they are in and around the facility, not just when they are in the chimpanzee areas. Planning meetings usually held in person are now being held by phone. And after consulting with our Direct Care Committee, a committee of our Board of Directors made up of veterinarians and primatologists (including a veterinarian that specializes in infectious disease and global pandemics), we decided to suspend all volunteer shifts for people who live and/or work in the greater Seattle area for the time being. Other restrictions will be put in place as needed as we follow the progression of this virus.
While the humans must adapt to a new way of working, it’s business as usual for the chimps.
This morning, Foxie immediately wanted to play a game with her trolls in the “foot box” (a contraption we built to allow for x-rays of the chimps’ hands and feet).
Lunch was a casual affair. The chimps love to sit in the fire hose swings at mealtime. While the caregivers are willing to squat down to the chimps’ level to serve them food, the chimps prefer to come up to our height and will often move barrels and benches up to the caging to make this possible. I doubt this is out of any concern for our ageing knees but rather to be positioned right at eye level when trying to get our attention for more food.
Burrito took a number of walks around the hill today. At one point, he and Jamie started running, which I took as an invitation to play. However, I soon realized that they had spotted a herd of 13 deer near the top of the hill and they were attempting to chase them off into the woods. Mission accomplished.
The two groups at CSNW spent most of the day in relative harmony, but early in the afternoon Willy B got some ants in his pants and decided to display in the Chute. Screams and threat barks were exchanged but before long everyone was more interested in dinner.
The chimps all have their own individual habits when bedding down for the night – where they sleep, how they create their nests, etc. Honey B likes to make a comfortable bed on the heated floor and then pull the covers halfway up.
Sleep tight, Honey B.