“May the roof above you never fall in and those gathered beneath it never fall out.” ~Irish Proverb
Though things have been a little tight here in terms of staffing, we still try our best to bring some excitement to the chimpanzees’ lives. With today being St. Patrick’s Day, we decided to throw them a little party. On today’s menu: “corned beets” and cabbage. We roasted some beets and boiled some cabbage and potatoes.
After we cleaned the Greenhouse, we set up the party for the Seven. Burrito was really into the cabbage and potatoes and went around picking up any the others may have dropped.
Missy on the other hand grabbed a plate for her own to enjoy at her leisure.
And she made sure not to spill any of her plate even while climbing up the structures. (Now that’s talent!)
Like Burrito, Negra had her own preferences. She really was enthusiastic for the beets and potatoes. She fit as many as she could in her mouth before returning to the Playroom.
While Jody seemed to really enjoy the cabbage Negra left behind.
At first Mave was really unsure of the beets. But after she gave them a try, they became her prized item for today.
When the parties began to wind down, everybody thought it was a good time for a nap.
Even Foxie and her doll.
So from us to you and your loved ones, have a safe and joyous St. Patrick’s Day!
Yesterday, Diana wrote the blog about a routine only Jamie would have. As a dominant and strong-willed chimp who is usually an active participant in social drama, Jamie has a tendency to express herself by displaying in the Playroom.
Today, Jamie kept up her steady pace by unleashing yet another raucous display on the residents of the sanctuary. She certainly had everyone’s attention.
To complement yesterday’s video, I tried my best to capture some still images of Jamie in action.
The Jamie Method:
Immediately afterwards, Burrito used the same barrel to observe the neighboring chimps. He had a much more friendly demeanor.
The Bubba Method:
In the following hours, the seven original residents in Jamie and Burrito’s group sprawled out on the upper deck of the wooden structure in the Greenhouse.
Perhaps they had forgotten that their neighbors had an identical barrel on the other side of the building, but they were soon reminded. The seven chimps were suddenly awoken by a chorus of hooting and drumming. The source of all this noise was Willy B. As a large and dominant male, Willy is tactful in his use of displays. He doesn’t overdo it like some brasher males I have met, but he certainly makes sure that his performances are explosive, timely and poignant. Mave and Honey B have a knack for getting out of his way whenever he begins to drum. Willy B may have won this battle of displays.
The Willy B Method:
Willy’s display drew Jamie out onto Young’s Hill. From her vantage near the Greenhouse, Jamie could watch the chute for further activity.
Who you are depends on who you’re with, wouldn’t you agree?
There are some characteristics that carry over to be sure (note Burrito having something in his mouth in both of his clips in the video above), but part of the joy (and sometimes frustration) of being a social primate is the way that we learn about ourselves by being around other individuals. Our interactions with those around us shape how we feel and how we behave in any given moment.
Watching the chimpanzees certainly impacts how this humans feels. There’s nothing better to boost a mood than watching chimpanzees play with one another.
To me, if life boils down to one thing, it’s movement. To live is to keep moving.
– Jerry Seinfeld
The relationship between chimpanzees and their physical environment is complicated. In particular, the way that they move around and think about these spaces is impossible to fully understand, but it’s still very important to think about.
As some of you may know, free-living chimpanzees form loose communities that collectively inhabit contiguous areas of land called home ranges. These forested territories are expansive and it is rare to see all (or even most) of a community’s members in the same location at the same time. Instead, each community splits up into small subgroups, often referred to as parties. In such a system, each individual has the capacity to split from its current party, go solo, or join a new one at any time. These changes occur over the course of minutes, hours, days and even weeks, so that chimpanzees in the same community may go a fortnight without seeing each other or, conversely, may spend most of their time traveling together. Although the ability to transfer between different communities is limited to young adult females, all mature chimps can generally associate freely among their community’s subgroups.
The patterns in which individuals associate with one another across space and time are known in the scientific community as fission-fusion dynamics and are influenced by diverse biological factors such as resource availability, habitat quality, mating prospects, social ranks, individual personalities, community demographics, and the potential risk of violence. Even with all of these variables in the mix, there is one rule that governs chimpanzee society:
Each chimpanzee gets to make choices.
In captive settings, chimpanzees are subjected to space restrictions that inhibit their ability to move freely across the landscape. Historically, chimps were often housed alone in tiny steel cages that inhibited most, if not all movement. Today, many modern sanctuaries allow their chimpanzee residents to roam across large outdoor habitats. Even in the best of these controlled environments, however, there are always artificial barriers that limit where the chimpanzees can go. Therefore, we sanctuaries are challenged to securely contain chimpanzees while minimizing the effect that such confinement has on their overall experience.
Of course, the Chimp House at CSNW provides the chimpanzees with the security and comfort that comes with warmth, shade, cover, food, enrichment items, and so on. Critically, it also gives the chimpanzees the opportunity to move among several adjoined spaces at will. For example, as volunteer Miranda was serving today’s breakfast to the chimpanzees in the Greenhouse, Jody split off from the group and chose to sit alone in one of the adjacent indoor spaces for a short while. It was her choice to distance herself from the others, for whatever reason. Whether a primatologist would actually call this a fission event or not would depend on their parameters, since distinguishing emergent patterns from such complex social dynamics inevitably requires arbitrary rules. Even though it’s doubtful that Jody would care about the semantics of it all, she’s probably well aware of the benefits offered by the ability to move to a different space. Perhaps she even appreciates it.
Subjectively, it’s clear that the chimpanzees at CSNW associate in patterns that parallel the fluid communities of their wild counterparts. As evidence of this, we caregivers witness many moments of separation and reunion that occur dozens of times each day among all of the chimpanzees. Sometimes they are marked by dramatic greetings or observable tension, but most of these simple moments pass without conflict or celebration. It may seem mundane, but this constant flux is the foundation of chimpanzee society and is presumed by many behaviorists to be a key component of their welfare. I would even argue that freedom to choose one’s physical and social surroundings, along with protection from exploitation and abuse, is the most important aspect of sanctuary life.
Today, the chimpanzees were fissioning and fusioning (or is it fusing?) all over the place. It’s often challenging to predict where a chimpanzee will be at any given time, but those of us who spend a lot of time in the Chimp House do get a sense for their individual preferences. Each chimp seems to have their own favorite spots for each time of day, activity, or mood. Please enjoy the following photographs from today of the chimpanzees doing whatever they wanted to do, wherever they wanted to do it.
In these stressful and uncertain times, what you definitely need right now is to watch this video of Mave and Honey B playing. What’s your favorite part? Mine might be the big toe to the eye…
This video is a reminder of why the chimpanzees’ relationships with one another are so important and the best type of enrichment.
This month, we celebrated the joyous anniversary of Nutmeg’s birth. Nutmeg completed his fifth trip around the sun on February 10.
Nutmeg and his bovine companions arrived at the sanctuary in the fall of 2018 and have been inhabiting the spacious pasture ever since. Even though he weighs well over one-thousand pounds, this tawny giant is still a mama’s boy. Despite his attachment to his mother, Betsy, we’ve enjoyed watching him grow more independent, hardy, and adventurous over the past 15 months. He still likes to hang with the herd, but he’s been exploring the sanctuary’s farmland and learning to love the outdoors with the support of his bovine companions. He’s also slimmed down quite a bit, and now sports a thick winter coat that has proven quite handy in recent months.
Normally, the cattle graze and browse the surrounding landscape during the warmer seasons and then receive supplementary hay and alfalfa during the winter. We pay close attention to their conditions so they can maintain a healthy weight. Last week, to celebrate Nutmeg’s birthday, we gave the cattle a few scoops of something special. The birthday mix was a rare treat that contained alfalfa, beets, oats and minerals. Nutmeg practically inhaled his portion before slurping the last few handfuls of grain directly off the tailgate. He’s quite the food connoisseur and he seemed to appreciate the special event.
In addition to keeping the sanctuary protected from fires by removing fuel from the landscape, these quirky creatures are a charming addition to the CSNW family. We couldn’t be happier to provide a peaceful home for Betsy, Honey, Meredith and Nutmeg. As I mentioned in the video, Nutmeg and the cows are looking for Bovine Buddy sponsorships that help us to maintain a safe and enriching environment for chimps and cattle, so please visit this page if you are interested in contributing to their care.
Also, please enjoy the included photos of this handsome dude.
Happy birthday, Nutmeg!