Chimpanzees are charming, playful and adorable:
They are quiet, gentle, and kind:
They are willful, strong, and unpredictable:
They are intelligent, curious, and intense:
They are violent, petty, and dangerous:
It sounds like pretty much every other species of animal, including our own, doesn’t it? We tend to show more of their adorable and playful sides than we do of their other sides, but we respect the full spectrum of who they are. It really can be pretty intense to be a chimpanzee. They tend to be drama queens (and kings). Their dramas are, in my opinion, way more interesting than any reality television show.
Tonight, for example, the after-dinner enrichment was kongs filled with spiralized zucchini noodles in peanut sauce (are you jealous?). Jamie was a little later coming to the party than the other chimpanzees, which is nice, because that meant the other chimps had a chance to find the kongs before Jamie dominated the scene.
By the time Jamie came in, most of the kongs were spoken for, but she very astutely checked under the blue barrel in the playroom, finding the one remaining kong. She carried the kong into the front rooms, put it down on the ground by a blanket, and then, by gesturing, she asked me for her boots, which I went to get from the kitchen/enrichment area.
When I came back, Annie was in the room with Jamie and had a fear grimace, while Jamie sat calmly a few feet away from her. I saw Annie look at the kong, and I surmised that she wanted to try to take it, but she knew it was Jamie’s. This was a challenging situation for Annie to be in, and it wasn’t clear what Jamie was going to do. I decided to busy myself with something else because we humans try not to involve ourselves in the chimps’ conflicts-they live with each other 24/7 and need to work out their relationships without human interference.
When I came back to see what was transpiring, Jamie had left Annie in the room with the kong and was climbing the stairs to the loft of the playroom. She still had a good view of Annie and was watching her like a hawk. Annie very slowly and carefully picked up the kong, and Jamie immediately started screaming, at first not very loudly, but her volume increased rapidly, and she reached dramatically out to other chimpanzees who were in the vicinity.
This caused the whole chimp house to erupt into screaming, and everyone began running around, banging on things and throwing objects. This is not in any way an unusual occurrence. Chimpanzees tend to be either very quiet or very loud, and minor conflicts occur virtually every day, sometimes multiple times a day. This particular conflict didn’t last very long, no one was injured, and Annie held onto her kong (I think Jamie had pretty much emptied it anyway).
This rather bold behavior on the part of Annie is becoming more and more frequent. Is Jamie’s leadership role as secure as it was eight years ago? Is it possible that Annie is attempting to rise from the bottom of the hierarchy like Mike, described in the blog post last Saturday? I don’t know. Stay tuned.