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!
Burrito and Willy B have now been together for nine days. This past Tuesday, we added Negra and Honey B – who get along unexpectedly well – creating a group of four. Upon entering the group, Negra did as Negra does, which is to say that she waltzed back into the playroom and made a nice comfy nest while pestering her caregivers to start dinner, as if nothing had changed. Honey B, on the other hand, came out of the gate with a message for Burrito: don’t mess with the little girl. On two occasions, as Burrito started to display, Honey B pounced on him, leaving him with a couple minor bites. Burrito seemed to be immediately overcome with the realization that the girls that had dominated him for so long were not an anomaly – they are all this way. Willy B stayed out of it entirely, as though he had received the same message from Honey B in the past and took it to heart.
With her point made, Honey B spent a considerable amount of time trying to get Burrito to groom and play. He has so far declined most of her offers, understandably. But they have maintained a peaceful relationship since.
So yesterday it was time to add Mave to the group. We had a strong feeling that Mave and Burrito would get along, based on their brief encounter in the group of ten and their interactions through the lexan as they have been housed in adjacent enclosures. And Mave seems to be a very stabilizing force wherever she goes, with her keen social awareness and penchant for giving out hugs when they are needed most. But given that Burrito was already working on a challenging relationship with Honey B, we thought it would suit him best to spend time with Mave one-on-one. As you can see, they hit it off right away and within a couple hours, both were introduced into the group with Willy B, Honey B, and Negra. This is how things will likely stay for a little while, so that Burrito can continue to build on his friendship with Willy B, work out his differences with Honey B, and find comfort in the warm fluffiness of Mave’s hugs. Negra will continue to play with her new friend Honey B and keep track of mealtimes for the staff. When the time is right, we will begin to engage Foxie with some of the newcomers so that she, like Burrito, can overcome her fears and forge new relationships.
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!
An old friend shared a story with us recently that moved me so much I felt compelled to share it with you.
As some of you know, Diana and I worked at the Fauna Foundation in Quebec in the late ’90s and early 2000s. During that time we got to know a few of the people that had known the Fauna chimps when they were at the lab, and the stories they shared were so helpful in our efforts to truly understand the chimps in our care. As it happens, Willy B, Honey B, and Mave were originally from the same lab – the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery In Primates (LEMSIP) – and when we announced that we would be taking taking them in, our friend reached out with stories of their early years. She knew them well. In fact, she had helped raise them.
Now, if you’ve been keeping up with the blog you know that Mave is running the show right now. She is smart, brave, compassionate, and fair, and she has taken it upon herself to try to bridge these two families during a critical time. How she came to possess such wisdom and maturity will forever be a mystery, however, considering her early years:
LEMSIP tried to keep babies with their moms for one year before stealing them to live in the nursery (aka “wean”). It was such a devastating time for baby and mom. They tried to “wean” babies in pairs so that they would have each other and become cage mates. They would become inseparable – literally. Mave and Goliath were such a pair and had been together all their lives. She was a bit anxious and he was her rock. He died at the Waystation sometime last year. They think it was a heart attack […] that is why I am pleasantly surprised that Mave is doing well.The picture of me in the cage with them shows one side of two 32″ monkey cages that had to be tunneled together for pairs of chimps in the nursery due to cage size violations. LEMSIP had gotten a variance in the size requirement for years due to the founder utilizing the “dry system” – a stupid way to house primates – no hoses, no drains – just giant rolls of heavy plastic (like a giant roll of saran wrap) rolled out in layers under all the cages. We had to hand wipe every wall and door and mop every floor. He felt that avoiding aerosolization of fecal matter and reducing lingering dampness reduced illness like diarrhea.I would go into the cage and play with and love on them after Mave stopped coming out. We would have to walk or carry the chimps to and from playrooms (no tunnels or shifting). One day, I went to carry them to play and Mave would not let go of the cage. We tried everything (blanket, treat, etc.) and that had never happened. What typically happened was, sooner or later, older chimps would figure out that they could (and should) refuse to go back into a tiny cage after being out to play. When that happened it was always their last time out. It was always a sad, sad day. But for a chimp to refuse to come out – even with their partner – was strange. We even tried walking away with Goliath so that she could jump down and follow but she wouldn’t. Eventually, we took him to the playroom to play with some friends in hopes of her gaining the courage to come out to us. But instead she was very upset and screamed and cried. He was so bonded to her that he couldn’t enjoy playing (even though they only got out once per week by that age). He got upset and needed to go comfort her so we brought him back. After that, I would just have someone lock me in the cage to spend time with them […]