I didn’t have anything that I felt could be a stand-alone video, so I decided to throw together a bunch of clips taken as we were going about the day today (ok, one was from yesterday). I hope you enjoy it!
Today was another unseasonably warm January day! The morning frost shrank away in the face of the formidable sun, and the chimpanzees went exploring.
Missy was all over the hill – running, climbing, frolicking, and looking for icy treats.
There are a few hanging tires on the hill that Missy knows harbor special gifts. In the summer, the tires sometimes have wasps nests, which she, Jamie, and Jody will carefully (though not without risk) harvest to eat the larvae. In the winter, when the wasps are long gone, fallen rain collects in the bottom of the tires and freezes.
It’s not always easy removing the frozen block of ice. Today, as I watched, Missy tried a couple of different positions to get the right leverage in order to remove the ice in one of the tires.
Still was not successful, she went back inside the greenhouse, passing Jody, who was stand as sentry watching the other chimpanzees on the hill.
Jody suddenly got up and started walking up the hill with no small amount of determination. Missy must have been watching Jody from the greenhouse, because she quickly came back outside (with two crayons in her mouth).
She seemed to suspect what Jody was up to, and ran to get ahead of her.
By the time Jody reached the first tire…
Missy had already absconded with the treat and ran up the hill, nature’s bounty in hand.
In the past, we’ve described Burrito as being tentative and unsure about things.
It took a while for him to join Jamie on her perimeter walks of Young’s Hill. In July of 2013, about ten months after the 2-acre enclosure was complete, J.B. writes that Missy, Annie, and Jody were often seen taking part in Jamie’s adventures at the top of the hill and all around the perimeter, while Burrito, Foxie, and Negra tended to stick to the lower half of the enclosure.
By October of that same year, Burrito was occasionally joining Jamie on her perimeter walks, On these walks, he was always the follower.
In March of 2015, Katelyn describes how Burrito was joining more perimeter patrols, and even relaxing a bit. A few days later, Burrito started to invite caregivers to go on walks without Jamie, which J.B. excitedly wrote about (read to the end for one reason he was excited).
Jamie’s walks still far eclipsed Burrito’s in quantity, and most of Burrito’s were with other chimpanzees with him following behind.
Burrito would often appear to be hesitant when Jamie veered off the usual pathway. Katelyn described Burrito gingerly following Jamie as she effortless climbed the Twister structure in September of 2016.
Today Burrito took twice as many walks / runs as Jamie around the perimeter. Some with just him and me and some with a chimpanzee group.
He was the occasional leader, sometimes even waiting for Jamie to catch up.
He and Jamie appeared to decide at the same time to climb up Twister.
But Burrito was the only one to go to the very top.
Before going back inside, on his own, he took a path less traveled to explore a different part of the hill.
Choices, opportunities, and space that allow for gradual gains in confidence and incremental steps towards discovery – this really is what sanctuary is about.
I don’t want to bury the lead here – something newsworthy and heartwarming happened today, but I do feel that it requires a little bit of set-up…
The morning greeted us with calm and fair weather after a very windy night, so J.B. decided we should take advantage of the unseasonable warmth and throw a little early impromptu Christmas party for the chimpanzees.
He and Kelsi decorated the trees of Christmases past that are planted on the hill. Anna came up with cute and yummy “ornaments” by cutting out heart shapes in pieces of pineapple using a cookie cutter.
If you know anything about Negra, it’s probably that she’s not an early-riser, generally preferring to linger in bed. This morning, however, she was the first out of the raceway to investigate the breakfast party.
She marched right up to the trees, and we all remarked to one another that she was further up on the hill than she’d been all year.
Perhaps she overheard us and thought, “hold my pineapple.”
What she did next was without precedent.
Missy had grabbed a pineapple ornament, a book, and a pineapple top from the tree and climbed up high to Jamie’s Lookout, joining Foxie and Jamie:
Foxie and Jamie soon departed.
Anna saw J.B., who was taking photos on the other side of the fence, run up the hill. Then we all heard him exclaim over the radio that Negra was climbing up the ladder to Jamie’s Lookout.
The Towers: Jamie’s Lookout and Carlene’s Tower were conceived of and built by founder Keith LaChappelle and friends in the summer of 2015 (I had to search for this blog post to find out the exact timeline).
Negra has never been to the top of this structure.
But today, five and a half years later, she climbed right up and sat next to Missy as though she had done it a hundred times before.
Perhaps you can discern her motivation and feel the subtle pressure she is asserting over Missy in this photo:
Missy soon finished her pineapple ornament and took Negra’s cue, leaving the pineapple top behind. Negra stayed up there, on top of the world, for a wonderfully long amount of time.
And then she climbed down holding the pineapple top and book (which she no doubt hoped contained peanut butter between its pages) in her mouth.
If you tuned in yesterday, you read that Willy B has been asserting his desire to disrupt the routine and, instead of shifting for meals, he has one thing on his mind – keeping tabs on the neighbors, we suspect Annie in particular.
Today was a continuation of this trend. Anna, J.B. and I put our heads together yesterday to attempt to problem solve and try to give Willy B what he wants but also ensure we are able to clean their house.
I think I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but I have a blog post percolating in my brain all about how much of what we do in caring for captive chimpanzees is balancing different aspects of welfare and safety.
I don’t know if I’ll ever write that grand post. There’s a hundred examples of this sometimes difficult balancing that we do throughout each day. Rarely are there clear right or wrong answers.
Willy B’s new defiance to the routine illustrates several examples.
Because of the construction happening right now that will give Willy B, Mave, and Honey B more space and variety, we decided to not give them access to the courtyard when construction workers are on site.
There are a few reasons we landed on that decision, but mainly it was about safety. Willy B is still getting used to the courtyard and Honey B and Mave are still curious but not curious enough to take steps outside. The Courtyard is right next to where the construction is taking place. We certainly don’t want any incidents while strangers are in the vicinity.
So, this means that Willy B’s Courtyard time has been lessened and we aren’t actively working on encouraging Mave and Honey B to be adventurous, but rather leaving it up to them for the time being.
Also, the Courtyard was a bit of a quick construction project. It’s not their final outdoor space, rather it’s a stop-gap that we created after the integrations didn’t work out so that Willy B, Mave, and Honey B could have an open-top outdoor space while we continue to work on the expansion for them and for another group of chimpanzees coming from Wildlife Waystation.
In order to create the space quickly, there’s just one electric fence running between the Courtyard and the rest of Young’s Hill – the outdoor habitat that the group of seven access. With just one fence between them, we don’t have both groups outside at the same time. This means we have to balance the needs, desires, and welfare of each of the individuals in the two groups when allocating outdoor access.
This is temporary. Both groups will one day have large open-top habitats, but right now we have to work with what we have. And there’s always the possibility of Mave and Honey B never (or take years to) get accustomed to the big open outdoors. So, part of our future plans include a large enclosed outdoor space too. Balancing. Balancing.
Our routine lately has been going along swimmingly for the most part. There was that one day a couple of weeks ago when Willy B decided to camp outside. Anthony’s post that day covers some of this same material I’m relaying here. At the time, that incident was an anomaly and didn’t impact the cleaning routine. Willy B’s decisions this week, however, are putting a wrench in the routine.
Today, I opened up the Chute first thing in the morning, hoping that Willy B would get his fill of monitoring the other group / watching Annie, and would then come in for breakfast so we could clean. I realized at the time, of course, that this was wishful thinking. He chose not to shift for breakfast. And today Honey B decided to join him in his keeping-the-humans-on-their-toes mission. Mave had a fabulous breakfast and was in high spirits all day, inviting the humans to play chase whenever she could catch our eye.
Based on Willy B and Honey B’s decision, I changed up the routine a bit, eventually closing Willy B in the Chute so that we could clean all of the front rooms. Happily for everyone, it was a beautiful sunny day, and he was quite content napping at the top of the Chute.
With the construction crew off, I decided to wait until after lunch to open up the Courtyard so that Willy B could have some extra time out there, if he chose.
Anna and I took turns hanging outside with him most of the afternoon.
It wasn’t so much that he wanted to be in the Courtyard as he did not want us to eliminate the option of him being in the Courtyard, so the few times Anna or I approached the controls to close the door, he would move from the Chute to the Courtyard.
It was nice to be able to give him this choice and it allowed me to do a little photo study of this man of mystery.
Eventually, he let Anna close the door and he came inside just before dinner. Whew!
I had a decision to make now. It was right before dinner, but the seven hadn’t been outside on the hill since this morning. They probably would have been just fine getting dinner and ending the day, which would make things easier on the humans. On the other hand, if they could have twenty minutes or so of outside time, that would be nice.
You can probably guess what I decided to do.
The question now was whether Jamie would allow me to close the hill after dinner. Jamie is controlling by nature and often chooses when the caregivers go home by sitting in the doorway to the hill, knowing full well that we won’t leave until all of the chimps are inside for the night.
After dinner, Jamie looked at me and ran outside. The gig was up, there would be no closing of the door; we were going to walk. Actually, a walk was not exactly what she had in mind. I had to get the gator from the barn so we could race.
I have to hand it to Jamie, she knows how to end a day.
Willy B also did not want a door closed during dinner – the door to the Chute. Eventually his stomach and curiosity made the decision for him and I closed the door while Anna passed out grab bags.
Now everyone is tucked in and sleeping soundly, and I’m awake-dreaming about the new spaces taking shape for Willy B, Mave, and Honey B and new chimpanzees and all of the ways they will be able to choose to keep the humans on their toes.
Here’s some exciting progress on the construction.
Thanks for tuning in to today’s blog! Happy Thanksgiving week to everyone.
This is apparently blog post #5316. This blog is pretty unique. In the beginning, we didn’t know how it would go. To be frank, we didn’t know how anything would go. We just knew we needed people to get involved and donate so that we could care for the chimpanzees, and we had a desire to share the chimpanzees and their stories so people would know what was happening to chimpanzees in the world, particularly those in captivity.
A lot has transpired at the sanctuary and in the world since starting the blog in 2007. A LOT! If we were starting today, I am not sure we would choose to have such a frequent and deep form of communication. It’s really quite a lot of work, and for that reason not the most efficient of marketing tools. But it has become much more than a marketing tool. It’s the diary of Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, and we hear from you readers/followers how much it brings to your lives, particularly when other things in the world are contentious and uncertain.
One thing that I love about the blog is that all of the staff caregivers, past and present, have contributed regularly. Each person has a different perspective with different thoughts rolling around in the back of their brains, and sees different things that the chimpanzees do on any given day; having a variety of writers makes the blog all the more interesting.
Posting daily and including the troubling events like fights and injuries as well as private reflections about the individual chimpanzees and chimpanzees in captivity in general, in addition to the hours of play, foraging, nesting, grooming, and eating that make up the chimpanzees’ day, has naturally lead to a more intimate and transparent look at life in a sanctuary.
I imagine, given unlimited time and resources, each of the caregivers could post multiple times a day. There’s just always something to say about chimpanzees (and bovines too!). I know I’m biased, but I think they are endlessly fascinating and endearing.
I know there are a handful (maybe more than a handful?) of people out there who have gone back and read every single blog post since the very beginning in 2007. That is mind blowing to me. You all are in a exclusive club!
Most people jump in at a specific time and try to catch up, learning about the chimpanzees’ quirks and our plans for the future as each new post is published.
Whether you are new to the blog or are in that exclusive club, I know you have questions.
So, today I invite you to post those questions in the comments – the ones that you’ve been wondering about for a while or the ones you just thought of a second ago.
I will not answer them in the comments, but rather the staff will use the questions to build future blog posts upon. I am not making any promises; we likely won’t get to every question posed to us, but I imagine we will see some trends and your questions will spark future blog posts.
This whole blog experiment has been a rewarding interactive process. I know I’ve met, both virtually and in person, some of the most thoughtful and kind people I will ever meet because they happened upon this blog and fell in love with the chimpanzees.
No doubt many posts have been written based on comments. This is just a more formal process. So, feel free to come back to this post later and pose more questions. I think it will be really interesting to see what you want to know!
In another take on intimacy, you may know that there’s a spot in one of the front rooms that we call the “Portrait Studio” because of the natural light that comes through the window, creating opportunities for photos that bring out the gorgeousness of the chimps. Below are a few I have taken recently.
And for a slice of today, here are some photos of J.B. giving Anna and I the tour of the expansion in progress, with Honey B and Willy B looking on:
First, a reminder to all that Tuesday (just a few days away!) is Giving Day for Apes.
In addition to our main fundraising page, if any one person or group out there wants to create their own fundraising page to raise funds for the sanctuary, you can do that! It’s pretty easy. Just go to our Giving Day for Apes page and click on the big “Fundraise” button and it will walk you though the steps. To see pages that others have created, scroll down on our page and look under “Campaigns supporting this organization.” All donations made on any of those campaigns will go directly to the sanctuary and will be eligible for the cash prizes offered!
Did you go look? Okay, good, now here’s the blog for the day:
Yesterday during the video event with Senator Tom Udall hosted by Animal Protection of New Mexico, animal welfare scientist Dr. Katie Cronin said something that really struck me. She said that having an enrichment program is not about what you provide but rather about how the animals feel about it. This is obviously true and yet somehow profound because it is not historically the way enrichment programs have been talked about or evaluated.
Enrichment is all about engagement and finding things that interest the individuals in your care, so if you give some type of enrichment to an animal and they don’t engage with it all, well, it’s not enriching for them and that means new things should be tried and evaluated.
So, fast forward to today. Kelsi and I were cleaning the greenhouse and I looked up at an eye bolt that Anthony had put under the top platform of the structure last year sometime. I said outloud that we should hang something there, so Kelsi and I talked about it for a bit and she mentioned wanting to get another hay feeder like the one filled with lettuce that Mave and Honey B enjoyed so much recently.
That made a dim light bulb go off in my (above my?) head, and I got to work filling the hay feeder with layers of blankets and lettuce to hang from the aforementioned eye bolt. I admit that I thought I was being quite clever. I had to stand on a step stool to hang the feeder and thought to myself that this was going to be a great challenge for the group of seven.
After letting the group into the greenhouse, I anxiously turned the corner to spy on the chimpanzees to see if they were engaged with the hay feeder. I was presented with a very rewarding scene: Annie was on top of the platform lying down to reach the lettuce and Missy was down below standing as tall as she could to reach the enrichment.
I left, once again feeling very clever.
I returned just a few minutes later, and Missy had solved the puzzle her own way, beating me at any contest for cleverness.
Soon, Negra came out to the greenhouse from the playroom and discovered all she had to do was sit below and wait for the lettuce to fall down as Missy picked through the blankets.
Meanwhile on the other side of the building, Mave and Willy B enjoyed some enriching social time in the outdoor chute in between rain showers:
While Honey B performed magic tricks with some new scarves:
All in all, I would say today was enriching for both the chimpanzees and me, and now I hope for you too.
If you enjoy the blog, please do consider making a donation to our Giving Day for Apes page. To get the most bang for your buck, donate between 10-11am PT on Tuesday, October 13th, but any donation at any time helps! Thank you for helping enrich the lives of the chimpanzees!