Anna and volunteer Becca got some great footage of the chimps going on the offensive against a snake yesterday. Don’t mess with Foxie!
Yesterday, during the party, Negra and Jody found themselves eating from the same pinata.
Negra, being dominant to Jody, decides that she’d rather not share. As Negra pulls the pinata away from Jody, Jody gets upset and begins to just slightly bare her teeth out of fear. Negra then displays a facial expression known as a full open grin. As you can see, her upper and lower lips are drawn all the way back, exposing all of her large and powerful teeth. This is a sign of fear or excitement, and is often seen when social conflict breaks out.
Jody responds with a full closed grin. Her lips are drawn back like Negra’s, but her jaw is closed. She is upset that Negra has pulled rank, so she goes to Burrito and Foxie for reassurance.
After being reassured by Burrito and receiving a kiss and a hug from Foxie, Jody returns to Negra, who offers her an extended arm in reconciliation. Jody accepts.
And the Queen gets the pinata.
As it should be.
This is all very similar to the conflict we showed a couple of weeks ago, but in this case all of the behavior was ritualized and no one was harmed in the process. As aggressive as they may be, chimpanzees are also very good at negotiating peaceful settlements to their disagreements. Part of this is due to their dominance hierarchies, which can help predetermine the outcome of smaller skirmishes without the need for fighting.
We mentioned before on this blog how difficult it can be to describe the dominance hierarchy at CSNW. One reason is that these seven chimpanzees had little social experience before coming to the sanctuary. They had to start figuring out how to be chimpanzees when they were already well into adulthood, with no role models to emulate and no culture to absorb – just seven misfits trying to figure things out as they went along.
But another explanation is that the majority of the Cle Elum Seven are female, and in the wild, the hierarchy amongst females is often less linear than it is for males. In some communities, the females seem to be ranked in broad groups rather than by the individual.
I would say that is true for the Cle Elum Seven. It’s clear that Jamie, Negra, Jody, and Burrito are dominant individuals, but among them, it’s not always clear how they are ranked. The hierarchy is complex, fluid, and context-dependent. For example, Burrito’s dominance displays are respected and tolerated by all of the females, but Jamie can steal his lunch with impunity. Jamie gets upset when Jody gets a hold of prized food, but she is not always successful in her attempts to steal it away. Negra always submits to Burrito, but she steals from Jamie and Jody. Honestly, it can get confusing.
Nevertheless, we refer to Jamie as the alpha of the group because she regularly fights for dominance and usually gets her way. Negra, on the other hand, seems to earn respect without trying.
All she wants is her night bags, a quiet nap, and occasionally, someone else’s pinata.
Missy had a little scare on the hill this morning. Sometimes the chimps get spooked and we don’t know what caused it. None of the other chimps seemed to care, so I doubt it was anything truly threatening. Plus, when it is a snake or some other potentially dangerous animal, the chimps tend to stick around and alarm call instead of high-tailing it for the greenhouse. If it’s a serious threat, I think they want to keep track of its whereabouts and alert everyone else to the danger.
It gives me goosebumps to see the chimps traveling up Young’s Hill as a troop. It’s like a little glimpse of what could have been if they had not been born into captivity or stolen from their families in the wild.
This video, by the way, shows Burrito walking to the log bridge at the top of the hill, which as far as I know is the farthest he’s ever been. He’s at the back of the line in the video – if we’re feeling generous, we might say that he is guarding the troop from the rear. In reality, at this point I think he’s happy to let the five girls ahead of him deal with any threats they might encounter along the way. But give him time – we see him get more confident each day out there.
Last night there was a commotion on the hill. We didn’t see what happened, but there was a lot of screaming and Negra ran to the greenhouse to seek reassurance from the other chimpanzees. Was it a fight? Did Negra get stung by an insect? Did she touch the electric fence?
This morning, as I was getting ready to let the chimps out onto the hill, I wondered if Negra would choose to stay indoors where she felt safe. But before I could unlock the door, Negra was there, waiting. She was the first out the door, and she stayed out long after the other chimps had gone back inside. She looked so at ease, eating grass and soaking up the sun.
When it came time for her to get up and head back to the building, something happened – she panicked. I imagine that she didn’t realize how far it was back to the greenhouse, sort of like what happens when you climb a tall ladder and don’t experience fear until you look down and realize how high up you are. This is probably what happened to her last night as well.
She ran down the log bridge, trying to get back to the greenhouse as fast as she could (which, for Negra, is not very fast).
She showed a slight fear grimace…
…which turned into a pout or whimper face.
Being Negra, she managed to grab some dandelion greens along the way without breaking stride.
The panic was short-lived, thankfully, and within minutes she was back in the same spot, enjoying some more grass.
We never really know what the chimps are thinking, but it’s clear to me that Negra is determined to enjoy the great outdoors. It’s just going to take a while before she can truly relax. Each of the chimps does things in their own time, and in their own way.