Could Burrito be more charming? Watch the video and decide for yourself.
Chimps are very investigative, defensive, and at times aggressive. Combine all these characteristics and add a small garter snake into the equation and you get a whole group of chimps ready to attack an intruder! This morning a garter snake made its way into the greenhouse and the chimps were on high alert. Everyone took a second to peer at it, but most kept their distance. Foxie, however, showed a lot of bravery and was doing her best to protect her home by trying to attack the snake (but without touching it).
The chimps encounter snakes every now and then. They’re very careful not too get too close to something that raises so much alarm, which is a smart instinct. Thankfully, garter snakes are completely harmless so there’s nothing to really worry about if they do touch it. In fact after filming this attack, I closed off the greenhouse and picked up the snake (who was still alive) and took him to a nice garden area that I thought he’d pretty happy about. I apparently don’t have a huge fear of snakes because I was holding him for awhile, talking to volunteers Patti and Connie about how we were going to set up today’s lunch forage, when they said “will you just put that snake down already?!” Like I said, harmless 🙂
The snakes seem to be good at “playing dead” so as not to actually get killed. At the end of the video you’ll see that Jamie was fairly convinced Foxie had taken care of the problem, and then left it alone. I was glad to be able to rescue it and find that he was not at all harmed.
Chimpanzees naturally use tools in free-living Africa. One common example of tool use is “ant fishing” or “termite fishing” — when a chimpanzee takes a stick and dips it into an ant or termite mound to gather up some tasty insects. At CSNW, we have a simulated termite board which we fill with things captive chimpanzees enjoy, such as fruit puree or peanut butter.
As part of our sanctuary philosophy, we strive to allow for “species specific” chimpanzee behavior. This can involve providing adequate space and climbing structures for a natural behavior like brachiation, and it can also include providing enrichment that allows them to use their instinctual chimp behaviors, such as nesting or tool use.
The other day, Jackie and I presented the chimpanzees with a puzzle: how to get drinks from buckets outside the caging. They quickly grabbed hoses to use for tools, as you’ll see in the video.
Fights are really common among chimpanzees. Being a caregiver you get used to the intense screaming, which often occurs even during fights with no contact between participants. You also know by the sounds when things have escalated. There was a conflict about a week ago which resulted in some minor bite wounds between Foxie and Burrito. After a brief squabble this afternoon, this pair spent a lot of time grooming each other.
The wounds were the initial focus of the grooming – chimps will closely inspect injuries on themselves and each other and clean them up by removing debris. So, grooming is good for their physical health. It’s also important for the social health of the group. The act of grooming is the chimpanzee way of healing and strengthening bonds. (For more on fighting and making up, see also J.B.’s post Conflict and Reassurance with amazing photos of a reassurance hug between Burrito and Foxie from May 4th).
Foxie grooming Burrito
sometimes grooming turns into playing – another great way to strengthen social bonds
I have pretty much the best job in the world. Thanks to stellar volunteers Jessica and Lynn, I was able to spend some time with Burrito this morning. He was in a particularly silly mood.
It’s easy to forget everything that he’s been through when he’s so playful. Chimpanzees have very good memories, but I think they are better at living in the moment than most humans. And Burrito is definitely better at remaining childlike.
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