J.B. and I were the first humans in the chimp house this morning. Before greeting the chimpanzees, I was washing my hands at the kitchen sink and looking out the window that connects to the chimp area when I spotted a stuffed animal being tossed up into the air playfully by a chimpanzee lying on the catwalk.
J.B. walked in the kitchen and I pointed out the quiet play that was going on. We both stood there watching with smiles on our faces and almost simultaneously said, “wait, is that Jamie?!”
You might know that Jamie is a pretty serious boss lady, rarely letting her hair down, so to speak. But there she was, using her feet and hands to bounce and toss around a stuffed animal.
Soon enough, she looked toward the window, noticed us noticing her, and immediately stopped her private game.
Later, when I was cleaning the playroom, I found the stuffed animal that she had been playing with so secretively. See the photo below of the donated stuffed lion. I can see how this piece of enrichment brought out the kid in stoic Jamie.
Enrichment comes in many forms, and it takes a lot to keep busy minds like Jamie’s amused. Enrichment is the antidote to boredom.
That’s why we have a whole database dedicated to sharing and gathering enrichment ideas. We’re always looking for new ways to help chimpanzees at CSNW keep busy and entertained, and we want to help other chimpanzees in captivity living in other facilities by sharing tried and true enrichment.
This time of year, we have a lot of enrichment that is centered around snow. It amazes me how much the chimpanzees love snow! It doesn’t have to be fancy or sweetened, though sometimes we do add treats or flavoring of various kinds. We really don’t have to add anything, though, because they never tire of just plain, pure snow.
After the playroom was cleaned, volunteers Robin and Kiana braved life and limb to harvest some icicles that had formed on the eaves of the chimp house and they created this masterpiece, which everyone enjoyed thoroughly:
Anything novel can be enriching, even if entertaining the chimpanzees was not the original intention. Taking a break from the snow and icicles, Jamie found a new way to amuse herself.
The official name for the Foot Box / Troll Cubby might still be in development. Jamie decided it was the perfect place to store her wooden saw after attempting to saw open the box.
Moving over to the other part of the building, we have another busy mind in need of activity and amusement: Honey B
When we began designing the expansion to the chimp building, we decided to include bars in the mezzanine area, similar to what is in the greenhouse, instead of having a solid, flat ceiling. It was a bit of a challenge to figure out how to do this within an indoor space with the need for insulation and lights above. This challenge was laid all on J.B. to work out with builders.
When Honey B, Willy B, and Mave first moved here, they didn’t use the overhead bars and I felt a bit dejected, partly because I had been such a huge advocate for this design, even though I wasn’t the one who had to engineer it. After all of the hard work that J.B. put into figuring out how to make it work and the considerable extra expense that went into including this feature, the chimpanzees just mostly remained on the floor.
I should have known it would just take some time.
It’s possible that the primate who appreciates the overhead bars even more than Honey B is caregiver Anthony. Here’s something to know about Anthony – he loves hanging fire hose for chimpanzees. And for good reason! Fire hose makes a space more interesting and dynamic, allowing the chimpanzees to move from one area to another (watch this old video or this one), or rest in between.
Speaking of resting, the chimpanzees even incorporate enrichment into their slumbering. Blankets at the sanctuary are a big deal.
Each chimpanzee has a unique style of nesting. Honey B, for example, starts with a base of blankets laid around her. Once settled, she often pulls one blanket over her legs up to her midsection, like a sleeping bag or a burrito. We’re just waiting for her to do that with one of the round tortilla blankets that a donor recently sent. Tonight, however, she used the tortilla blanket under her head.
Tomorrow will be another day full of enrichment. Sweet dreams!