Not only are chimpanzees adept at using tools and solving puzzles, but they are also good at planning ahead. When Jamie is confronted with a difficult problem, she often disappears for a while and returns with a tool that will help her solve it.
Age: 38ish. Her exact birthday is unknown, but she was likely born in 1977. We celebrate her birthday on Halloween to celebrate her mischievous personality. Check out the following link to find out more about Jamie’s story prior to arriving at CSNW.
Nicknames: James. She is also referred to as “The Boss”
Favorite food: Pears
What she is known for: She’s known for being the leader, the one in charge (of the other chimps and us humans too!). She absolutely loves her cowboy/girl boots and doing perimeter patrols around her outdoor enclosure (sometimes walking until it’s dark). And she demands her human caregivers put on one or more boots and walk with her (humans walk on the outside of the fence, while she walks inside). She is an excellent tool user and loves using them for projects around the sanctuary.
Distinguishing physical characteristics: She is very muscular, has dark freckles on her face and her nipples are pink. Many caregivers (and blog readers) know her by her perfect posture and her distinctive strut, especially when she’s walking around Young’s Hill.
Personality: Where do I begin? It’s complicated; she’s complicated! I think Elizabeth did a great job of summarizing her contradicting personality characteristics. She’s extremely intelligent and serious, yet she has a playful side. And as much as she is demanding, bossy, stubborn, intense, mischievous and moody, she is also determined, passionate and uninhibited.
We all know by now that chimpanzees are really smart. And, if you are familiar with Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, you know that boss Jamie chimpanzee often shows off her intellect. Sometimes she even impresses those of us in the know, however.
Case in point: the other day I was doing a perimeter walk with Jamie and she turned back to gather two big tumbleweeds. At first I wasn’t sure what she was doing – she doesn’t usually pick up tumbleweeds on our walks. Plus they were rather awkward to carry. They kept slipping out of her hand as they scraped against the ground, but, each time, she would pick them back up and continue the walk.
At one point she stood up bipedally and put one of the tumbleweeds in her mouth for easier carrying. She also took a good long look at the boots I was wearing, and I became clued in to her plans.
When the walk was complete, I met her and her tumbleweeds in the greenhouse. Jamie pulled up the big black tub to sit on.
And then she proceeded to alter one of the tumbleweeds to her liking:
Once she was satisfied with her tool, she pushed it through the caging and began to groom the boot I was wearing (which, of course, she had picked out prior to our walk).
Imagine the forethought that it took for her to go through the process of seeing an unruly tumbleweed well before the walk was finished to the grooming session that she imagined would happen minutes later. She’s one smart cookie!
This is the story of Jody and the sheet. Jody was quite determined to untie this sheet from the fire hose and bring it in with her to make her evening nest.
It appeared to be an easy task at first – she quickly untied one end, but the second end proved more difficult because it was just a bit out of reach. She tried to climb the hose and untie the sheet at the same time, but, even with opposable toes, this did not work out.
She came up with a pretty brilliant solution.
Jody is not known for her athletic skills or her desire to solve puzzles, but when she wants something, she is one determined lady. It goes right along with our most recent e-news article about chimpanzee minds and bodies at work.
I think my favorite photo is #19. What’s yours?
If you were to diagram the relationships between the chimps at CSNW, Foxie would be the one point at the center that connects everyone together.
She is by far the best friend that Jody has. The two like to take morning walks around Young’s Hill together and play gentle tickling and wrestling games while lying on their backs. When Jody is upset, Foxie is there to comfort her.
She is one of Missy’s favorite play partners, and one of the few that can keep up with Missy’s breakneck pace.
And while she got off to a rocky start with Annie, the two have come to understand each other better in the last couple of years and these days it’s not uncommon for them to play together or spend time with each other surveying the valley below Young’s Hill.
Foxie is one of the only chimps that can get Jamie to let down her guard and play. If it weren’t for Foxie, Jamie would never get a break from being bossy. And that, frankly, wouldn’t be good for anyone.
To be Negra’s friend, you have to learn to go at her speed. Foxie can groom quietly with Negra, but she also gets Negra to let loose once and a while. She does this by inviting her to play with big, exaggerated play gestures, knowing that she has to be clear with Negra and ensure that Negra still wants to play along at every step of the way. This gentle and understanding approach has really helped Negra come out of her shell.
And I don’t know where Burrito would be without his 90-lb bodyguard. Whenever Burrito gets himself into trouble, she is there, trolls in hand, and ready to place herself in harm’s way to defend him.
Primatologists often refer to a primate’s political skills as “Machiavellian intelligence.” Chimps with a high level of Machiavellian intelligence are able to work social relationships to their advantage. They form alliances and exchange favors in an effort to climb the social ladder. If I didn’t know her better, I might think that Foxie is a Machiavellian genius, the way that she has won everyone over. But I don’t think she has a cynical or manipulative bone in her body. She just likes everyone and wants everybody to get along. And they, in turn, like her. How could you not?
Nature documentaries tend to focus on the alpha males, and in many human societies, we deify the powerful. But behind all the brash, dominant types hogging the spotlight, there’s usually someone like Foxie holding everything together.
If anyone deserves our admiration, it’s her.
This morning I was contemplating how we as humans view chimpanzees and how my own views of chimpanzees have changed after getting to know many different personalities. And then I got to the computer and saw these photos that J.B. had taken this morning while strolling with Jamie and Missy.
I know most of you reading this already know how seriously we take safety, but for those who might be reading for the first time, I like to make sure it’s clear that J.B. was safely on the outside of the double electric fence when he took these photos.
No fence, however, prevents us from taking part in the lives of the chimpanzees – Jamie insists on her human caregivers joining in her strolls. And Missy sometimes comes along for the exercise, fun, and companionship too.
Today, Missy got an extra surprise – Jamie’s Halloween / birthday bag that was left at the top of the hill yesterday (see the Jamieween video for reference).
After taking a look in the bag, I’m guessing Missy ran down the hill at breakneck speed – not because of what she saw, but because this is what she likes to do. She sometimes joins Jamie in strolling down the perimeter, but Missy’s speed is usually on “fast,” and she really enjoys running down from the very top of the hill, leaving us slower folks in her dust.
Jamie, on the other hand, makes sure that her human walking partner is keeping up:
Walking around the hill is perhaps Jamie’s greatest pleasure. This is the face of contentment:
Many people, when first learning about chimpanzees, are in awe of how similar they are to humans. And, in fact, many behavioral researchers have spent years comparing chimpanzees to humans in so many ways – language ability, counting prowess, puzzle-solving, teamwork, etc, etc, etc. I think this is what first interested me in non-human great apes. And it still does. It’s remarkable to see Jamie communicating her desires with her human caregivers using gestures, using a (plastic) screwdriver, drawing with a ball point pen, playing with an iPad, and many other activities that she enjoys. And their similarities don’t end on the individual level – observing the social interactions of chimpanzees often really does resemble watching a human reality show – strong personalities and lots of drama.
But what I like most about chimpanzees now, and I think what more and more people are being drawn towards, is their chimpanzee-ness. It’s true that they are so like us, and we, in turn, are so like them, but what they are even more like is themselves, and that’s what makes them fascinating, wonderful, and deserving of protection.
Supporter Michelle C. recently sent the chimpanzees a very unique gift – a piece of the Florida beach along with some little shovels. Today we set up the gift from afar in the sandbox table.
Looking at the set up reminded me of those zen sand gardens that are sold to business executives. This one, of course, catered to Jamie (note the boot).
There’s a video in the middle of this post of Jamie truly looking pretty zen as she played in the sand. The other chimps weren’t sure what to make of the stuff. They’ve had sand before (one of my favorite memories is Jody laying in the sandbox in the greenhouse on “Spa Day” ). But the chimps had probably never encountered the soft white sand of the Florida beaches.
Jody and Foxie getting a closer look:
Annie joining the inspection:
Jody digging in:
And Jamie getting zen: