There was a lot of activity in the Chimp House on this busy Sunday, but this post just focuses on the happenings in the newer part of the sanctuary’s main building.
In that wing of enclosures, Honey B, Mave and Willy B have continued to settle in and seem to grow more comfortable with each passing day. Mave, of course, is an expert nest-builder and can make herself comfortable in any place, at any time, and with any partner. This was true on her road trip from California, it was true when we introduced her to a group of strangers, and it remains true each and every morning.
During the late morning hours, Mave sprawled out on the heated floor in a beam of sunlight and lazily picked through the remnants of breakfast. She was soon joined by Honey and Willy in what became a massive raft of fuzz. Grooming is done for more than just hygiene and maintenance; it is the glue that bonds chimps together and also serves to alleviate stress. It certainly seemed to be doing all of the above as the three chimps took turns dozing off while gently picking through each other’s hair.
Afterwards, though, the chimps began to act goofy and rambunctious. Lately, Willy B has been making raucous displays using a pink toy car that he can drag and push around the front rooms. Last week, he used this unusual object to make constant noise for the entire duration of our weekly staff meeting. Even with the doors between the chimp area and the foyer closed, we still had to shout just to hear each other. He continued to drag the little car around today, but he seemed to be in a good mood. He interspersed the loud drumming with quick play sessions. During these bouts of play, Willy waits for a caregiver to approach the caging and then skips away with his characteristic double stomp serving as a figurative exclamation mark. I tried to take photos of him and Honey B chasing us around the building, but both were fascinated by the camera and kept trying to groom and kiss the lens.
The day ended with a challenging set of enrichment puzzles that today’s volunteer crew worked hard to stock with nuts, seeds and raisins. Chimps don’t seem to have the finely-tuned dexterity that most humans have, but they still tend to do quite well for themselves and can even learn how to use simple tools for grooming and foraging.The three new chimps were skilled with such tasks long before the even arrived at CSNW, but it’s still fascinating to watch them solve the puzzles in order to extract the valued snacks that are tactfully hidden inside. Today’s smörgåsbord of hanging puzzles included raisin boards, boomer balls, shake bottles, and drop-down puzzles; each type requires a different perspective and strategy, but the chimps are intelligent enough to figure most of them out eventually. The seven original residents are experts at these tasks and even last year’s arrivals are not far behind, so the pressure is on us caregivers to devise novel challenges that also meet our standards for safety and durability. Kelsi recently highlighted some enrichment activities on the blog, and we also curate a public enrichment database on our website.
Provisioning the chimps with a steady stream of enrichment objects, foods and materials is a massive endeavor. For blog readers and Facebook followers, the best ways to ensure the chimpanzees have ample enrichment are to purchase items directly from our wish list or to become a Chimpanzee Pal. As Diana highlighted yesterday, an amazing supporter will be giving us bonus donations for every new Chimpanzee Pal and Bovine Buddy who signs up before the end of this month. Honey B, Mave and Willy B (the three chimps mentioned in this post) are all available to be sponsored. Of course, we appreciate all the generous people who have already made contributions to the sanctuary!
P.S. I mentioned that Mave is an expert at maintaining a constant state of warm comfort. As I sit here putting the finishing touches on this blog post, I can see her silhouette on the security camera. Even with the limited night vision, her Ewok frame and hobbit feet are easy to distinguish. She’s snuggled up in a giant blanket nest on the heated floor of Front Room 7 and her right leg is propped straight up on the caging. She’s one of a kind.
P.S.S. Mave just lazily rolled over and I’m shutting down the Chimp House for the night. It’s easier to leave when you know that the chimps will be safe and warm in their nests until morning. I hope that you all do the same!
To say we lean on our volunteers (and interns) when times get tough is an understatement.
There is so much to do and the days feel so short right now. To appreciate how critical the volunteers are, it may help you to understand how our team operates.
Each day, one of our staff members has the role of Lead Caregiver and is primarily responsible for opening and closing the facility, operating and unlocking doors, responding to safety issues, and synchronizing all of the day’s personnel. Think of them, as Chad nicely puts it, as “air traffic control.” A second staff member is tasked with completing daily chores, preparing meals and enrichment, distributing medications, and approving all of the Lead’s door operations. In short, two caregivers manage the Chimp House as partners for the day. Their typical itinerary looks something like this:
Open, check, serve, shift, check, clean, check, shift, check, clean, check, shift, serve, organize, tidy, blog, check, shift, clean, serve, check, close. Somehow find time to answer emails. Repeat all of it the next day.
A third staff member may be asked to help them, but that still only leaves just enough time to complete the bare essentials, with no time left for administrative work, sanctuary upkeep, or other miscellaneous projects. It’s safe to say that we need extra help, and we’re fortunate enough to have a full corps of capable and eager volunteers who support our staff every day.
Volunteering is a big commitment. Just to even be on site, applicants must go through rigorous training. This process includes a preliminary application and a safety orientation followed by months of interactive learning. Even for volunteers and interns who come in weekly, it takes months of hard work to become proficient at basic tasks. While becoming familiar with all the essential duties, most volunteers also learn to distinguish the individual chimpanzees and conduct the necessary checks before unlocking enclosures for cleaning. This is not a task to be taken lightly. At the highest level of responsibility, some volunteers are even trained to have protected contact with the chimpanzees through the steel caging. With this specialized skill set comes the ability to directly serve meals to the chimps.
Because volunteers “lend a hand” with many time-consuming tasks, caregivers sometimes have the flexibility to work on other endeavors (such as writing long-winded blog posts with accompanying videos). The volunteers also advocate for chimps via outreach events, work to inspire donations, devise and build new enrichment items, and assist with monitoring chimpanzee health and behavior. They’re an integral part of our team.
Most importantly, the individuals who volunteer here are great people who love the chimpanzees. In addition to making the workplace more interesting for our staff, they certainly help the chimpanzees to have a good time. Volunteers will often be seen dutifully putting on cowboy boots for Jamie, running around the Hill with Missy, playing tug-of-war with Burrito, stomping around with Willy B, and pretending to be excited when Honey B gifts them random items through the caging (today’s most notable gift was an elastic headband). We appreciate the extra hands, but the chimps may appreciate them even more.
Of course, the volunteers get unique experiences and acquire new skills in exchange for their efforts. Some volunteers are enrolled in internships for academic credits through our partnership with Central Washington University, and dozens have utilized this pathway to earn graduate degrees or professional certificates and advance their careers. Many of the sanctuary’s alumni have progressed to serving at other reputable sanctuaries, working as zookeepers in accredited zoos, studying nonhuman primate behavior in academic contexts, advocating for animal welfare and conservation via science communications, and caring for nonhuman animals in veterinary settings. A few former volunteers have even found themselves employed at CSNW as caregivers (I wonder if you can guess who I am referring to). Still, other volunteers have unrelated professions but equally contribute to the chimps’ well-being in impactful ways.
It truly is a diverse, talented, and diligent group of people. I can’t say that any one of them is the best volunteer, but I like to brag that we really do have the best volunteers.
Also, I would like to specially thank the Sunday Squad for letting me awkwardly film them as they worked in the Chimp House. You’re all rock stars.
A few years ago we made ‘Fall in Love with” videos for all of the chimpanzees. Like right now, these videos were part of a February fundraiser highlighting the Chimpanzee Pal program. The videos are at the bottom of each of the chimpanzees‘ webpages.
The new three needed their own videos too!
So, I present to you: Fall in Love with Honey B (see video above).
This will be first Valentine’s Day that Honey B, Willy B, and Mave will be celebrating at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest. They have a few pals right now, but sure could use some more. Chimpanzee Pal (and Bovine Buddy) sponsorships help pay for the daily operation of the sanctuary and the care we provide.
Many people choose to break up their donation and give monthly, and that means we know that those funds will be reaching the sanctuary on a regular basis, helping ensure the monthly bills are paid. We have lots of plans for the future, but the day to day is just as important.
Every day of sanctuary is something new for curious Honey B, and we are so grateful to those who contribute to her care and the care of all ten of the chimpanzees and the four cattle. You make a difference!
That may have come out wrong.
“Write Your Own Blog Post” is actually today’s theme. I wasn’t snapping. I promise.
Think of today’s entry like you would a self-serve car wash or one of those places where you can put whatever topping you want on your fro-yo. I literally want you to view this collection of images that I captured at the sanctuary today and use your imagination to fill in the blanks. The blog is in your hands.
The chimps, cattle and humans had a great day, but we caregivers didn’t have much time to write about it. I wasn’t lacking inspiration, especially since I had some thought-provoking conversations with caregiver Chad and volunteer/professor/board member Jessica as we swept, scrubbed, and served well into the afternoon. None of those thoughts found their way onto the page, though. Sometimes, a few snapshots say more than several paragraphs would, and I hope that is the case this evening.
I’m about to have a late-night bagel, go make a gigantic blanket nest and sleep until tomorrow morning.
Cheers from snowy Cle Elum!
Some of the chimps (particularly Honey B) spent the day after Christmas investigating their new presents:
She also found an old standby. These rainbow toe socks seem to never get old!
As for me, this will be my last blog for a little while as I head into my maternity leave. Fingers crossed our baby girl comes soon (due date is tomorrow!). Many thanks go to all my extremely supportive coworkers for covering for me and Chad for joining the team this winter! I’ve been jealously watching Negra nap in the most luxurious fleece blanket nest today and am secretly longing for a bit of time off in my own nest. Talk to you all next year!