These girls run the Sanctuary! Not only do they out number the fellas, but they often are more strong willed. The ladies may be submissive to Willy B, but they are not afraid to take charge!
It is winnnndy! The chimps had a very leisure day playing, napping, and watching J.B. and a few volunteers start building a new structure out on Young’s Hill! They are just getting a section of the project done today and than another group of volunteers will come tomorrow to help us build the rest of the structure. Normally I would expect the chimps, especially Jamie, to be out in the chute inspecting everything that was going on. However, it was so windy no one wanted to be outside really. Jamie did watch from the windows and the comfort of her own nest.
Jamie watching from the mezzanine:
Jody cozy in a nest:
Missy curled up:
The crew working hard and trying not to get blown away:
Today we gave Mave, Honey B, Willy B, and Negra access to Young’s Hill. I am not sure we have talked about this much. Though this is not the first time we have given them access to Young’s Hill, a 2 acre outdoor space. I feel I should also mention that as far as we know the three have not had an outdoor space like this in almost 30 years or maybe ever. So you can only imagine how exciting, but also terrifying and scary this space must be for them. The Hill is a large outdoor area with unfamiliar fencing, ground, and also not knowing if anyone else is out there. The other chimps obviously haven’t been on the other side when they have access to the Hill, but the unknown can be intimidating! Right now Burrito is still alone recovering and the girl gang was inside phase 1 so they wouldn’t be too much of a distraction to the nervous 3 and Negra just napped the whole time.
Our first attempt was almost a month ago, before introductions had started. It did not go the way we had planned or the way I am sure the 3 chimps wanted it to go. We tried to show the chimps not to touch the electric fence. However, the electric fence was foreign and all they have ever really known is that they can hold onto caging. But the “caging” was shocking them and it was suppose to be safe. So there was screaming and they were nervous to say the least. Even with preparation and showing them not to touch, they still touched it, a lot. You might be wondering how we demonstrated this to them. There are many different methods. We pretended to touch the fence and get shocked. We made chimp vocalizations and screamed. J.B. grounded himself and made the fence spark (safely) and screamed as well. When the seven went out for the first time they had a mock test fence to touch so the chimps understood it would shock and J.B. also touched the fence to give them the real effect. J.B. did not want to touch the fence again (weird) and we didn’t feel that the mock test helped the seven not touch the fence, because they also got shocked the first time or two as well. An enclosure is all these three have known and mesh caging is what they are used to grabbing. Even the ground can be uncomfortable, for example, Willy B doesn’t like walking across the wood chips and tries to avoid them. This probably has a lot to do with living on concrete floors for most of his life.
There is a lot of adjustment for Honey B, Mave, and Willy B. We have continued to offer them the Hill when possible. However, they are scared. Honey B did go out again, but curiosity got the best of her and she touched the fence again. Though no one went out today, we will keep trying and hopefully one day they will feel comfortable enough to go out and explore, and not touch the fence as well!
Mave relaxing in the green house:
Honey B a little out of focus, enjoying some sun in the green house:
This photo shows a little bit of how Willy doesn’t like walking on the wood chips. He uses only one foot and tries to get across as fast a possible. Or tries to walk on chairs and enrichment to get on to the platform. This is actually every common for chimps in captivity that are adjusting to new environments. The unknown is scary until they can get use to it.
Negra in a cozy nest. Negra also spent some time grooming with Mave and play wrestling with Honey B.
Later in the afternoon the “Girl Gang” received access to the Hill. The girls and cattle went on a patrol together:
I thought since today was Giving Day for Apes I would reflect on this amazing opportunity that I get to call my job. I am a caregiver for primates and a handful of farm animals. Chimpanzee have changed my life. The Chimpanzee Human Communication Institute was my first introduction to chimpanzees. To be honest, I always wanted to work with marine mammals, but after I met Tatu, Loulis, and Dar I fell in love with chimps intelligence, their playfulness, their physical strength, but most importantly their resiliency. When I learned about the pain humans have inflicted on primates I wanted to make a difference and from then on I never looked back. I followed Tatu and Loulis to Canada and than I came back to Washington where I was lucky enough to get a job at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest. It was hard to leave Tatu and Lou who I had known for 7 years, but the Pacific Northwest was my home. And to be lucky enough to get a job at CSNW, you just can’t say no to that!
There is a lot to the word caregiver. Being a caregiver is one of the most valuable parts of my life. I have learned how to put all of their needs before my own, feel so much compassion it hurts, and have a side of me be so silly I don’t care who sees. But there is also the side of being responsible for the well being of the individuals you are caring for and the humans involved. It can be emotionally straining, especially at a time like now. Care giving during this introduction period has been a challenge, the most amazing rewarding challenge! On one hand the friendships being formed are the whole reason we are doing this and it is so awesome you could cry! We want the best for the chimps and we also want to provide more homes to more chimps. But on the other hand it is one of the more stressful events in my career. On the human side watching your friends meet a bunch of strangers! Talk about social anxiety! But, as written in many of our blogs, you have to trust them. Each chimp has stepped up and gone above and beyond what we thought would happen. The hard work isn’t over, it might not have even started yet, but it is truly an amazing time to be at CSNW.
The chimps, as I’ve mentioned, are so resilient. Every chimp has a different background, some were raised by humans and given to biomedical research once they were too old to control, others where caught in the wild and taken away from their mothers, many were breed in captivity never knowing what the outside world felt like and would never know what it would feel like to be a “real” chimp, a wild chimp. Theses are just a few scenarios and there are so many more. But the fact that these chimps can form relationships with humans after what people have put them through will always blow my mind. And more than that, when they get the chance in sanctuary to make relationships with other chimps, get that feeling of freedom or choice, or even just feel relaxed. That is were my job is the most rewarding. Here in a sanctuary they get the opportunity to become themselves, or at least as much as possible. They will never get to go into the wild again, that was taken from them, but that they can make friends with other chimps or people and go onto the 2 acres must feel freeing in some way.
A few little moments that make my heart melt that I hope makes yours too: Annie making sweet bird noises, Burrito food squeaking so loud, Willy B lip smacking for food, Mave being a friend to all and her jumping up and clapping her feet when she wants to play (eekk!). Negra going out on the Hill alone, Jamie making a fort laying on a nest intertwined with boots and books, Honey B laying in a bunch of brown paper wrestling around in it, the moment you hand Foxie her doll back and she is completely content. Missy, Honey B, & Annie playing and Jody caring so intensely about each of her friends. But the winner today is Missy and Willy B playing chase. I haven’t seen Willy B with this big of a play face yet! We hope you enjoy this short video!
We have made progress with our introductions. As of today, Jamie and Negra are now with Willy B, Mave, Honey B, Jody, Missy, Annie! The introduction has gone very well so far! Mave greeted Jamie and Negra with a warm embrace. Honey B partook in welcoming the girls in too. But Jamie and Mave really seem to be hitting it off! Mave has done a wonderful job defusing situations. For example, all the girls were screaming at Willy B who was in the green house. Mave shuffled the girls back into the playroom and then went to reassure Willy B. Jamie and Willy B seem to be fond of each other. However, individuals have been interrupting them once they finally get a moment alone! We don’t have a lot of photos or video because it is important that the humans not be involved or around too much while the group continues to build strong relationships. We are preparing a video from the introduction today! We are sorry for the delay, but the chimps and humans are very tired. As for future plans, if the 8 stay fairly stable our next step is to get Foxie and Burrito integrated soon and make it a group of 10!
In the meantime I hope you all enjoy these photos of Missy grooming Willy B this morning before the introductions started:
Everyday is different. However, today is finally a quiet day. I know, I just jinxed it! There was less screaming, a lot of playing between Missy and Honey B (!!!), good grooming sessions, and most of the interactions were positive! It was going so well that we tried to tip toe around the chimp house to not disturb the calm! There is usually a little drama pre dinner, but overall a very quiet day. Everyday will vary and who knows what tomorrow will hold!
Negra looks so cozy:
Willy B foraging out in the Green House:
Mave enjoying a beet!
Honey B was guarding the playroom door. We have been trying to get in there to clean for a day or so now! However, Honey B has other plans.
Over in phase 1 Jamie would lay down on door I which separate the mezzanine from the front rooms and watch the volunteers and staff clean the front rooms. As you can see Jamie even has a water cup next to her. But the best part of Jamie observing everyone from the top, what you can’t seen, is the troll scarf she tied around her waist!
Foxie and Burrito played a lot of chase and wrestling together:
Days like today are refreshing. It means the group is getting more and more comfortable with each other. Which also leads us to start thinking about doing more introductions!
This is a story I first told at our gala in June. Though now it has a very exciting ending or maybe more of a beginning of an ending. It’s a lot of words… feel free to skim and skip down to the photos of Honey B I took today.
I don’t myself believe in fate, but I could see how this tale might be interesting for those who do believe in predestination.
The story begins when I was working at a sanctuary called the Fauna Foundation in Quebec, Canada. The fifteen chimpanzees that I worked with at Fauna had all been used in biomedical testing at a laboratory called LEMSIP in upstate New York. When LEMSIP was closing in the late 1990s, there was a scramble, led by LEMSIP’s head veterinarian, to get the chimpanzees into sanctuaries instead of being shipped to the Coulston Foundation, a laboratory in New Mexico that was ill-regarded even within the laboratory community and had amassed numerous animal welfare violations.
The sanctuary world was very small at that time and there were not many places for chimpanzees. Gloria Grow, founder of the Fauna Foundation, had never cared for chimpanzees before, but she had a sanctuary for wayward farmed animals and she wanted to do something more.
A former LEMSIP employee had given Gloria a list from 1993 of all of the chimpanzees who lived at LEMSIP. We would pour over that list, looking for relatives of the 15 chimpanzees who arrived at Fauna in 1996. She helped to identify where some of the other chimpanzees went, whether to other sanctuaries or to Coulston.
Over the course of the three years I worked at Fauna, I spent hours looking at that list with Gloria’s handwritten notes on it. I wondered about the personalities behind all of those names. I wondered if they were okay.
I don’t know why, but some of the names just stuck with me. Honey B was one of the names on that list.
I had heard that Honey B was the half sister of Jethro, a large adolescent guy at Fauna who loved to play chase. I knew that Jethro, Honey B, and another chimpanzee at Fauna, Binky, had all been together in the “nursery” at LEMSIP after they were taken from their mothers.
In 2005, I found myself outside of New Orleans at a shelter that was taking care of dogs and cats that had been left behind after Hurricane Katrina. This was a few years after J.B. and I left Fauna for other academic and professional adventures. We were living in upstate New York at the time, and there was no way (well, maybe there was a small way) I was planning on bringing home a dog to our peaceful feline household.
But a dog at the shelter adopted me and her owners did not want her back. She was not the dog I would have chosen if I had been deliberately searching for a pup. She chased cats and didn’t want anything to do with other dogs, or other people for that matter. But she decided I was her person, and I accepted this without questioning it for very long. I broke the news to J.B. over the phone and he also didn’t question it.
Now, we needed a name for her. The name that I landed on was Honey B. Not Honey Bee, though I’m sure that’s what most people thought of when I mentioned her name. No, this somewhat surly Chow Chow from Louisiana that was my new best friend was named after a chimpanzee I had never met.
Honey B the dog, J.B., me, and our three cats (Cuba, LouLou, and Peanut) moved from our Victorian house in upstate New York to work at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest in 2008, just a month before Annie, Missy, Jody, Jamie, Foxie, Burrito, and Negra arrived from Buckshire, the laboratory holding facility where they had lived for decades. Buckshire leased out the chimpanzees they owned to different laboratories, including LEMSIP before it closed down.
Buckshire provided us with some of the medical records of the seven chimpanzees who now called Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest and Cle Elum, Washington their home. I was looking through Missy’s record, and lo and behold, I discovered that she was the mother of the chimpanzee Honey B! I dug up the old LEMSIP list that for some reason I had moved with me from Quebec to Massachusetts to New York to Washington and confirmed this information.
I thought, “what are the odds of that?!”
Honey B the dog didn’t pay much attention to the chimpanzees, but after the chimps’ two-acre outdoor area, Young’s Hill, was built, J.B. and I would take her on walks around the outside of the perimeter fence. Despite her lack of affection for more than a few (okay, two) people, she was a really easygoing dog in a lot of ways and didn’t need to be on a leash. Every once in a while, she and Missy would run down the hill on opposite sides of the fence together.
In May of this year, I learned that the chimpanzees at Wildlife Waystation were in need of new homes. I knew that Honey B the chimpanzee, the daughter of Missy and the namesake to my beloved now-deceased Chow Chow, lived there. I had still never met her. Side-note: Missy’s son Josh also lives at Wildlife Waystation.
We were just wrapping up the first phase of the expansion at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, expecting to bring three or four chimpanzees in need to (hopefully) expand the chimpanzee family of seven.
After visiting Wildlife Waystation, we knew we could and needed to immediately help at least some of the chimpanzees there. J.B. and I met all of the 42 chimpanzees. They are all wonderful and deserving. Their groups vary in size, but there were only three groups of an appropriate number for us to consider bringing to CSNW. After talking to the care staff about personalities, it seemed clear that Honey B and her group mates Willy B and Mave, would have the best chance of integrating into our group of seven.
Less than three months later, J.B. and I drove down to California and returned with Honey B the chimpanzee and her two friends.
Four days ago, mother Missy and daughter Honey B touched each other for the first time after 30 years of being apart. It was clear from the records we have that Honey B was taken from Missy when she was less than a day old, and there’s no indication that they recognize they are related, but we hope there’s a chance they will become friends.