As we have discussed many times, Cy is an avid reader. With some kind donations of Shutterfly gift-cards we finally made Cy his book! The pages were filled with Mave’s group, Jamie’s group, the cattle, and of course lots of spreads of Willy B. Cy is constantly flipping through magazines and we have never seen him so startled that he jumps, but when he saw the pictures of the cattle he jumped out of his skin! The first time he even made me jump! Eventually, Rayne took care of it for him and ripped the book up. She is a true friend! Since Cy’s new book didn’t work out, we are running dangerously low on magazines. Cy has been dying to get his hands on some People magazines! If anyone has clean magazines they could spare, we (Cy) would greatly appreciate it!
Taking care of chimpanzees is more than cleaning enclosures and serving them meals. There’s a lot more that goes into it. We also ensure the chimpanzees are well mentally. This is usually through the form of enrichment. Enrichment is a way to provide mental stimulation and promote natural behaviors. In layman’s terms, enrichment is a way to try to curb boredom. When animals become bored, some abnormal or stressed-related behaviors can start to develop.
Here, we try very hard to keep all 16 residents enriched to the best of our abilities. But what does that look like? Traditionally in the animal care field, enrichment comes in a few staple categories:
- Physical Habitat
Cognitive enrichment is the form of enrichment you have seen here many times. These are the food puzzles the chimpanzees get throughout the day. These are the toys some interact with. This is a way for the chimpanzees problem solve and give them a level of control of their environment. With the food puzzles, its a way to problem solve a situation in order to achieve the reward.
Physical Habitat is the how the enclosure is set up. Not only should an enclosure probably look visible appealing for the chimpanzees, but it should be functional as well. Young’s Hill has a plethora of structures the chimpanzees can climb, swing, and sit on to look out on to the surrounding areas. In the indoor enclosures, firehose is a great addition to their physical habitat.
In the two new playrooms and greenhouses currently occupied by Willy B’s group and Cy’s group, there are two artificial trees the chimpanzees can climb up and relax on their platforms.
Social enrichment is the relationship the chimpanzees have with others, chimpanzees and humans. It can be enriching to interact with a chimpanzee from another group, even if it is just through the window.
As you know, we have been in the process of integrating Cy and Willy B’s group into one. Though these times can be stressful, seeing some of the chimpanzees come together and form bonds is the most heartwarming feeling a caregiver can get.
Food can be exciting and enriching, but food on it’s own is just something you eat to satisfy an empty belly. What can make food more enriching is introducing new foods or presenting it in new ways. We are continuously trying to find new foods to introduce to the chimpanzees. We also try to present the food in different ways. Besides hand serving we also set up forages. Typically when the weather is nice, we set up forages on Young’s Hill. This promotes a chimpanzee’s natural behavior to move around and search for their food.
Another type of forage presented in an exciting way is the parties we throw.
Sensory enrichment includes those which allow the chimpanzees to utilize their sense of touch, smell, auditory, and vision. We try to provide them with novel ways to utilize these senses.
As some know, Willy B loves screen time. This is one way we provide him with both a visual and auditory enrichment.
Is everything we do a hit? No. Is what is good for one group good for the other? No. Do we continuously try to find ways to ensure every chimpanzee is enriched based on their personal preference and likes? Absolutely! Though this can be a very challenging task to cater enrichment for 16 very different personalities and likes, it is absolutely worth it. It is part of the job I personally love.
Here are some bonus photos I took of Rayne today:
Here’s something positive – the chimpanzees are really enjoying the snow snacks that are the result of Snowmageddon 2022!
I tried to get some good photos, but when photo opportunities presented themselves, the chimps were in motion and I only had a cell phone on me. so I only captured the cover photo of this blog post, this blurry image of Foxie who had just retrieved a mouthful of snow from her front rooms and was headed up to the loft in her playroom:
and Gordo who had brought snow from his playroom to the front rooms on that side of the building. He deposited the snow on the floor, and left a bit for Cy to enjoy (see main photo above).
I can’t say that the humans are enjoying the snow quite as much as the chimpanzees right now. Though the last few days have been an adventure, and we’ve certainly laughed a lot, it’s proving to be a logistical challenge to figure out where, exactly, to put all of this stuff. More looms above on the roof, not-so-subtly threatening to upend the progress we’ve made.
Look at the form on Kelsi. Is shoveling an Olympic event? I give her 10/10.
Young’s Hill is inaccessible for a few reasons: 1) there’s so much snow everywhere! The chimps would be chest deep in it, so they have to wait until we can get in there to create a pathway for them. 2) we haven’t yet been able to shovel a pathway for ourselves to the door that opens onto the hill, even if we could let the chimps out. 3) the snow is weighing down the electric fence wires, weakening the system.
More good news, though: we are fully prepared for winter storms. Though it will be a bit before full outdoor access is possible, all of the chimpanzees have lots of indoor space, blankets, toys, food puzzles, movies, and humans plus their partners who drive through the biggest snowstorm in decades to help the onsite staff take care of them.
In addition to all that, they have their indoor/outdoor greenhouses! I’m kicking myself for not getting photos yesterday of the chimpanzees in the new greenhouses (I did get a little video clip of Mave that I posted to our Instagram). We have a new heater that we turned on for an hour or so yesterday, and then the sun kept those tall enclosures warm for the rest of the day. I cleaned the greenhouses this morning and can attest to the fact that they were well used the day before.
All sixteen of the chimpanzees here are the product of very unfortunate circumstances. They shouldn’t be in Cle Elum, Washington. They shouldn’t have been used in medical research. They shouldn’t be in captivity at all. However, given their unfortunate histories, they are extremely fortunate chimpanzees now. And all of us are immensely fortunate to know them.
Even though I can’t shake the feeling that the snow lurking out every window and door is taunting me in some way…
I know it will not last forever. Spring will come, sure as it does every year. We have so much to look forward to as we hunker down and appreciate everything we have, including unlimited snow snacking.
See how Cy and Dora spent a rainy Friday morning.
Speaking of Cy…this morning there was a large blanket under a door that I needed to close at breakfast time. Hydraulic doors can be closed securely with blankets in the way but then the blankets tend to get wet when we clean the floors. So we usually ask the chimps to help move the blankets out of the way, with mixed results. My first request was to Gordo, which I should have known would get me nowhere. Nothing but a blank stare from that guy. Then I asked Terry and Dora, but they were preoccupied at that moment, if you know what I mean. I could have gone to Lucky or Rayne next but at that point I knew who I had to call. Even though he was at the far end of the room, with a word Cy calmly walked the length of the front rooms and pulled the blankets out of the doorway for me. What a guy.
So, about last night…
Jamieween isn’t officially over until the chimps say it is. Even though it’s now officially November 1st, they’re still enjoying themselves like its just another day of October.
For those of you who missed the original post or want to refresh your memory, I will simply link to yesterday’s blog entry by Sam: Jamieween 2021!
Today, we spent the morning cleaning up the disastrous mess that inevitably follows a house party of that caliber. It’s hard to describe the mess that sixteen chimps create when their caregivers prime their enclosures with a lavish excess of enrichment materials, but perhaps the following snapshots will allow you to imagine the scene: Pumpkin guts splattered on the walls, pistachio and peanut shells in heaps on the floor, a half-eaten Jack-O-Lantern, raffle tickets blowing around like tumbleweeds, and shiny new books about bonobos and mummies lovingly tucked into a blanket nest.
Enrichment Coordinator Chad helped me to collect some photos of the aftermath.
Happy October 32nd, everyone!!! Thanks for helping us make this Jamieween an exciting day (or series of days) for all the chimps!
Please enjoy these photos of Queen Negra obtaining Brussels Sprouts on a gorgeous fall day.
She got in some calisthenics during the forage.
Bonus: Jamie and red peppers in the tall grass
Today really felt like sanctuary, I mean everyday does, of course! But everyday is different, each chimps mood varies, what they feel like doing, or not doing. Today was full of patrol walks, laughter, exploring, displaying, excited breathy pants, and of course a few non shifters ;). The beauty of sanctuary is choice and with that choice gives them a sort of freedom, not the freedom they should have and very much deserve, but the closest freedom they can have. Some days I will catch moments that just make your heart want to burst with joy, like Jamie chasing Foxie on Young’s Hill. Because those moments are what sanctuary is all about!
Rayne says goodnight!