And start waving it around like a racing flag signaling it’s “Go Time!”

 

And then throw it and the game of chase begins.

 

The blanket just happened to land on his back when he threw it in the air today. I assume it looked like I was chasing a green ghost around for a little bit.

A little bit later, lunch was served and Negra was really pleased with her Brussels sprouts. She even collected those that were tossed aside by the others.

She was joined by Foxie and moved on to her red onions. She might have moved on to her red onions after seeing how much Foxie was enjoying hers.

Speaking of Negra and lunch, we hope to see you participate in The Queen’s Brunch on June 13th. Be sure to register to receive updates on the event and online auction. There are some many great items being added to the list, including this magnificent watercolor and ink painting of the Queen herself by Jennifer Kruger! Be sure to look at some of the other amazing auction items, and stay tuned for even more amazing things to come.

The Three Goofballs

Goofballs. Goobers. Dorks. Clowns. Weirdos. Free spirits.

Whatever you call them, there’s no doubt that Honey B, Mave and Willy B know how to have fun. We’ve been focusing so much lately on Willy B’s exciting forays “into the great outdoors” that I decided to share some clips of his group being playful and rowdy earlier today.

Please enjoy the video, everyone!

The Saga of Willy B

Right now, I know that many folks are struggling to adjust to the new normal: a degree of social isolation, economic strife and general mistrust that rails against our innate drives to be together. No matter what we believe should be happening right now, I think it’s safe to say that most of us are frustrated, worried, and even exasperated. We want this to be over, but it won’t end.

Instead, we must look at our own lifestyles, identify the things that truly bring us fulfillment, and work to keep those fires lit even as boredom, anxiety, loneliness and grief do their best to snuff them out.

Amid this uncertain period of perpetual unease, one new development in particular is giving us all some inspiration: the methodical progress and unexpected bravery of Willy B.

I could sit here writing about this chapter of Willy B’s story for hours on end. Given the gradual adjustment of the three new chimpanzees to life at CSNW, punctuated by a couple heartbreaking setbacks, Willy’s recent exploits have given his tale the flavor of an odyssey. It’s now a epic saga of sorts, complete with a courageous, endearing and hairy little hero. Lately, he seems to be on a vague quest with a yet undetermined goal.

In recent weeks, I think that other staff have done an amazing job describing each step in his journey. If you’re looking to catch up, I suggest skimming the previous blog posts about Willy, the Courtyard, and the tall wooden structure that he is gradually conquering one ladder rung at a time. If you are really feeling ambitious, you could skip back to last June when we first announced that we would be welcoming three chimpanzees from the Wildlife Waystation, including a mysterious dominant male named Willy B.

Today, I’m focusing on one particular chapter describing one short event. It occurred over the span of an hour today in the Courtyard.

We’ve been setting food items in small caches throughout the Courtyard to entice Willy B and the others to explore. Gradually, Willy B’s bottomless appetite is leading him to venture into parts unknown. He recently made sporadic forays out onto the boardwalk until he determined that each section was safe. He then grew comfortable sitting at the end of the boardwalk and began to investigate the base of the multi-tiered wooden structure that it leads to. Last week, he climbed the tower, and he has been slowly acclimatizing to the new sensations of sitting on wood decking, perching high above the ground, and being able to see clear over the Chimp House. He’s made tremendous progress, but there are still areas of the Courtyard that he has yet to explore. For example, the structure has two thin spits of decking that jut out toward the rest of Young’s Hill. These pier-like extensions are connected by a web of twisted vines (“the ropes”) and a large hammock, all made from repurposed firehose.

Here is an old photo of caregiver Chad testing out the hammock after it was first made and hung inside the building. It was moved outdoors when we realized that the chimps didn’t seem interested unless we placed food on it.

 

Today, I placed a whole apple on the hammock. Willy B will do almost anything for an apple, but I wasn’t sure if he’d have the confidence to go after this one. He’s an athletic and intelligent individual with a bold personality, but he’s not as skilled at climbing as an adult chimpanzee should be.

Well, he tried. He tried hard.

First, he scouted the area.

Then, he tested whether the new sections of decking were safe to sit on. They were.

Suddenly, shockingly, Willy B dropped down below the decking and swung himself over towards the hammock.

He was so close. But then, with the visible apple just out of reach, he turned back. It seems that he wasn’t yet confident in his ability to make the final swing over to the hammock. From the safety of the decking, he surveyed the area from above a second time.

He dropped down again and swung back to the hammock, gripping the firehose vines with his chubby chimpanzee feet.

This wasn’t the right moment to try out the hammock, though. He backtracked all the way to the safest spot in the Courtyard at the base of the structure. There, he checked in on the neighbors, nibbled on a slice of tomato, and let out a muted display.

After expressing himself as only a chimpanzee can, he gave the ropes another try.

Again, he retreated and regrouped.

He mustered up the bravery and strength to make one more push. He got so close, but seemed hesitant to put any weight on the hammock and did not reach out to grab the apple.

Willy b even thought about lowering himself to the ground to find a new route over to the hammock, but he apparently decided the dirt and grass were too strange for today. He paused, suspended from the decking with his toes skimming the blades of grass, and then hoisted himself back up without ever planting his heels on the firm ground below.

Fortunately for Willy B, he gets several apples each day (along with many other nutritious foods). Importantly, he’ll get another shot at the elusive hammock apple for as many days as he needs. If he’s ambitious enough, he’ll conquer the ropes tomorrow just as he has so many other unusual obstacles in his path. We’re hopeful that he will eventually grow to enjoy climbing and exploring even without the promise of a shiny red apple to propel him forward, just as a chimpanzee should. Either way, I look forward to watching the saga continue.

Random Assortments of the Day

I’m finding it hard to piece together things that have happened today at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest into a nice, fluid story. However, there were just a wide assortment of things that happened, that it’s probably best to just showcase them.

Before the clouds came rolling in to give us a nice, cool Spring rain, Willy B did venture outside. He stayed outside for nearly an hour on his own before the sun was swallowed up by the gray clouds. Caregiver Kelsi was able to grab this shot of him soaking up as much sun before it disappeared.

After Willy B went inside, we gave the Group of 7 access to Young’s Hill where first order of business was to patrol their area. Foxie was the first one to race out onto Young’s Hill, but Jody and Missy weren’t far behind.

After their patrol, the staff conducted some positive reinforcement training. Here, J.B. is asking Burrito to show him his foot.

Kelsi asked Negra to open her mouth to get a look inside.

And Anna is giving Jody a grape for showing her hand.

Positive reinforcement training (PRT) is an important tool for caregivers for medical purposes. It allows us to conduct a quick health overview of the individual or to inspect an extremity without the use of anesthesia. Though it is an important tool for us, the chimpanzees sometimes view it as a game.

The PRT session ended right as it began to rain. Listening to raindrops hit the window can drum up the desire to wrap yourself in a blanket, and take a nice afternoon nap. In Honey B’s case, replace “blanket” with “blanket fort.”

The chimpanzees were just served dinner and are enjoying their evening enrichment puzzle. Today’s puzzle is peanut butter in small containers. The idea is for the chimpanzees to fish out the peanut butter using a tool. In this case, Missy is using a chopstick. (My apologies for such a blurry photo.)

For extra stability, she used her foot to hold on the small container.

Foxie, on the other hand, bypassed using chopsticks and just used her fingers.

Now if you please pardon me, I hear raspberries being blown by a certain Burrito Chimpanzee, and I think it’s time for his nightly ice. Good night, everybody!

Band of Mothers

This sanctuary is full of mothers. We spent the day honoring them.

For those of you who may not already know, five of the sanctuary’s ten chimpanzee residents (Annie, Foxie, Jody, Missy, Negra) were used for breeding in their past lives as biomedical research subjects. All of their children were taken from them immediately after birth, thus denying them the ability to care for and raise their offspring. Their infants were raised in laboratories as a scientific resource, but this practice was incrementally brought to a halt. Some of their sons and daughters made it to sanctuaries where several are still enjoying their retirements.

Missy’s daughter, Honey B, was transferred to this sanctuary last summer when the facility that previously cared for her, the Wildlife Waystation, permanently shut down. It was unfortunate that so many individuals lost their homes, but it was serendipitous that we were finishing a new wing of enclosures exactly when Honey B and her companions needed it most. (Note: The sanctuary community is currently raising funds that will care for the Waystation’s remaining chimpanzees and help create new homes for them at reputable sanctuaries. You can visit this page to learn more!) Missy and Honey B were able to meet, but it’s unlikely that they recognized each other. Amid the drama of attempting to integrate their two groups, their face-to-face meeting was relatively uneventful. Still, we sometimes notice that Honey B has a tinge of Missy infused in her personality and appearance. There are many ways in which they differ, but Honey B occasionally behaves with a Missy-like flavor. Notably, they both play chase the same way. Today, Chad managed to capture portraits of the two in the same pose and posted it on the sanctuary’s Instagram, so you can all see it for yourselves.

Today’s festivities weren’t centered around that relationship alone. Every year, we celebrate Jody‘s birthday on Mother’s Day. Nobody knows Jody’s real birthday, but we do know that she gave birth to nine infants during her time in the laboratory. All were taken from her. We would never allow the chimpanzees to breed since we would be furthering a practice that we aim to end and condemning yet another chimpanzee individual to a life of captivity. Nevertheless, Jody possesses a tender maternal spirit and serves as a guardian and peacemaker within her group of seven adult chimps. It seems like Jody was born for motherhood and, despite her tragic past, she has found a new way to fulfill that duty with enthusiasm.

The chimps aren’t the only ones who have brought new life into this world. The sanctuary’s small herd of four cattle consists of two mother-offspring pairs; the enormous steer Nutmeg is Betsy’s son and Meredith is Honey’s daughter. Among the humans, current staff members Erin and Anna are mothers to children of their own when they aren’t busy caring for chimps. Recently, we received the good news that our friend and former coworker, Keri, joyously welcomed her second child, Skyler, into her family. This is just one of the many ways by which the CSNW family continues to grow.

For all of these reasons and more, today is an important day to celebrate mothers of all species, whether they were allowed to raise their own children or not.

Chad, our Enrichment Coordinator, assembled a celebratory forage of lilac flowers, corn, bell peppers, and sweet potatoes. Honey B and Mave tried lilacs for the first time and loved them, although Willy B wouldn’t even give them a taste and seemed way more interested in climbing the outdoor structure yet again. Of course, Jody savored her floral snacks while her six companions scoured the Hill for caches of food. As a whole, the chimps thoroughly enjoyed the midday celebration and spent most of the afternoon resting and foraging in the warm sunshine of late spring. I have included some photographs of today’s events (taken by Katelyn, Chad, and I).

Honey B smells and tastes lilac flowers, possibly for the first time ever!
Mave preferred to carry the flowers around but eventually nibbled on them with interest.
Jody loved the flowers, but first she had to secure a whole ear of corn on the cob.
Negra (L) and Missy (R) climbed structures to search for food.
Annie brought her lilacs into the Greenhouse.
Foxie initially ignored the flowers and searched for chow and potatoes instead.
Eventually, Foxie ate some lilacs but Jody (“Farmer Jo”) had already amassed a large collection of them.
Missy delicately smelled her flowers before gingerly picking the entire bouquet apart with her lips.

Whether you are a mother or not, we hope you enjoyed this celebratory Sunday and showed appreciation for the people who shaped you into the person you are today.

Another Few Steps, Another Adventure

The sanctuary has a relatively small staff, so each of us knows how to do the essential duties and can safely manage the sanctuary on any given day.

Still, we all have certain skills and interests that translate to specialized roles apart from the core caregiving responsibilities. Anna leads the volunteers and staff, Katelyn manages the office, Kelsi coordinates our outreach program, Chad curates the enrichment program and has a mustache, Dr. Erin is the dedicated veterinarian, and I have started focusing on projects related to animal health and behavior. At the helm of all this are the sanctuary’s co-directors who do most things as a team (although Diana is chiefly responsible for the development of the organization while J.B. primarily oversees the sanctuary’s operations).

It’s somewhat unusual for sanctuary directors to participate in activities like cleaning enclosures, maintaining the property and folding laundry. Anyone who knows Diana and J.B., however, won’t be surprised to read that they are still involved in various tasks around the sanctuary on a daily basis. For example, it’s not unusual to see J.B. play chase with Burrito, fly the drone, do hours of office work, hang up safety signs, drive to Wenatchee to pick up produce, help serve chimp dinner, weld together a Foot Box, and then mow the lawn in the span of a single work day. Diana and J.B. have regular shifts when they are scheduled to do chimpanzee care, but that doesn’t prevent them from helping out on most of the days in between. Sometimes, they even do things for the chimpanzee and bovine residents when we’re not expecting them to be working at all.

That’s exactly what happened this morning.

As Sunday’s lead caregiver (a responsibility we all share on a rotating basis), I pulled into the driveway a little before 9:00am. I always scan the surroundings as I cruise up the dirt road towards the Chimp House, but my heart skipped a beat this morning because there were cattle in a place where we don’t usually have cattle. Had anyone been sitting in the passenger seat, they would have heard me mumble “Oh, $#%&.”

Betsy, Honey, Meredith and Nutmeg were trotting around the expansive pasture which separates the chimpanzee’s outdoor enclosure from the neighboring ranch to the South. As of Thursday evening (the last time I was here), the fencing was incomplete and it looked like it might be a few more days, if not weeks, before the pasture would be ready for our herd of four rescued bovines. Some projects, such as giving the cattle their spring hoof trim and breaking ground on the new wing of chimpanzee enclosures, have been temporarily postponed due to the ongoing public health crisis. We had previously discussed hurrying the fencing project to give the cattle some more grass to turn into mass and gas, but it was unclear when we would get around to it.

Before accelerating up the driveway, I squinted at the distant fence-line and was both relieved and shocked to see that the posts were connected by shimmering aluminum wire. This wasn’t a jailbreak event and the cattle were still safely enclosed. Someone had finished securely enclosing the pasture.

I looked further up the hill and eventually spotted J.B. on the Gator, proudly watching over the three cows and one enormous steer-child. Sure enough, he had just finished enclosing the pasture by himself on a Sunday morning so that the cattle could have a full day to acclimate to their new digs. I probably shouldn’t be surprised by this sort of thing anymore. It’s become normal that the sanctuary looks like a slightly different place every time that I leave for a few days, and little changes can accumulate quickly. It really makes me appreciate how Anna can return from a three-month maternity leave and jump right back into managing the Chimp House during a global pandemic. To see such changes taking place, even in the most uncertain of times, is evidence of the slow but steady growth of the sanctuary.

That wasn’t the only big change to happen while I was away. We have recently been brainstorming ways to help Willy B, Honey B and Mave to adventure out into their section of Young’s Hill. On Friday, just two days after we all decided to start putting out more food on the boardwalk that extends out into the grassy enclosure, Willy B took his first steps out of the chute and into the open courtyard in order to retrieve some scattered food. Even though he appeared hesitant and calculating, it also clearly took some extraordinary guts. We’re not sure when the new three were last able to walk on real grass or go outside without caging overhead (if ever), so Young’s Hill must be a scary place for them. I wasn’t at the sanctuary on Friday, but I was happily bombarded by texts and videos from the staff who were working. Willy did it again on Saturday and I, once again, spent my afternoon smiling while watching the uplifting video over and over on my couch at home.

Today, I had the joy of seeing two amazing events first-hand: Willy going out into the courtyard for a third straight day and the cattle being brave enough to venture out into a new pasture. It’s strange to see how the two events parallel each other despite the obvious fact that cattle and chimpanzees behave quite differently. I’m ecstatic that the sanctuary’s residents are opening up to new experiences, regardless of whether they have hooves or big hairy feet. I’m also really proud of our sanctuary’s team (and community of supporters) for providing them with these opportunities to go beyond their past experiences. It gives me confidence to see us surging forward, one little unexpected step at a time.

The Cattle
Betsy
Honey
Meredith
Honey (L), Betsy (C), Nutmeg (R)
Nutmeg (L) and Betsy (R) [Note that despite the obvious size difference, Betsy is actually Nutmeg’s mother]
Honey
A swallow perched on the electric fence today
The view from the sanctuary during last week’s initial wildflower bloom
Missy eating a kiwi while watching J.B. drive around the pasture this morning