What’s more terrifying than a chimpanzee dominance display? A dominance display in slow motion.
The chimps have been crazy all day. Burrito can become very sexually aroused when the girls have their swellings, particularly when all three girls who cycle are in estrus at the same time. But because he was raised by humans (like most entertainment and research chimpanzees), he doesn’t exhibit normal sexual behavior. The result is a lot of tension, a lot of frustration, and a whole lot of chaos.
Jamie stepped out of the playroom during the afternoon to release some of that tension in the form of a dominance display. Displays are partly under conscious control and partly not. In this case, it seemed clear to me that Jamie climbed to the top of the platform with the intention of displaying. But at the same time she wasn’t fully in control of the display. We often liken displays in this way to sneezes. You know when you have to sneeze but you just can’t? And you can’t do anything else until the sensation either dissipates or culminates in a sneeze? That’s what displays can seem like for chimpanzees. Jamie stood on that platform for three minutes, rocking back and forth, softly pant hooting, and then repositioning and hooting some more, until she finally got everything out in a two-second display. When she was finished, she went about her business as if nothing had happened.
I think we’ll all be a lot happier in a few days when Burrito can start to focus on other things…