The chimpanzees in Jamie’s group often begin their mornings by patrolling their outdoor enclosure, Young’s Hill.
Downpours, blizzards, and extreme cold are just about the only events that can deter them from engaging in this ritual activity. The temperature was well below freezing this morning when I opened the door to Young’s Hill after breakfast. I was quite cold despite the morning sun and a couple extra layers over my scrubs, so I doubted any of them would want to be outside either. I had equipped my shorter camera lens thinking that I might photograph a brave chimp or two as they curiously peeked their heads across the threshold.
I was quite wrong (as we humans so often are when we attempt to predict chimpanzee behavior).
The chimpanzees darted out into the wide open habitat in a single file line, diverging further up the slope and dispersing among the structures and bamboo. Some individuals seemed more interested in watching Aaron, Gary, Jose, and J.B. work on The Bray, while others trekked uphill to the grove of pine trees. I managed to get only unflattering shots of their backsides as they disappeared beyond my view.
Missy and Annie:
Missy, Annie and Burrito:
Foxie, Burrito and Annie:
Jamie, Foxie, Burrito, Annie and Jody:
Foxie and Burrito:
Missy (if you can spot her):
Only Negra chose to remain inside. As comedian Jim Gaffigan would probably describe her, Negra is “what you would call indoorsy.” With the exception of special events, Neggie generally prefers to nest in the greenhouse after breakfast and leaves the outdoor exploration to her companions. I stopped to visit her on my way back to the Chimp House and saw she was snoozing peacefully under a mountain of fleece blankets in the warm greenhouse.
The care staff had been busy cleaning the playrooms for a short while when J.B. shared an unexpected photo in our team’s group chat. Negra was now sitting atop a platform outside on Young’s Hill! The Queen, for some reason, decided that this chilly morning was the perfect moment to go on a hike.
I detoured into the foyer to switch lenses and dashed outside in a desperate attempt to document the moment (hoping to share it on the blog this afternoon). I made it around the corner just in time to get a single blurry photo of Negra plodding her way back into the greenhouse. Some of the other chimps remained outside for a bit longer, but Neggie’s interest in the outdoors appeared to have subsided for the day.
However brief, these unexpected winter adventures have been reason enough to keep the outdoor enclosures accessible even when the conditions are less than ideal. We never know what interests and motives the chimpanzees might have, so we give them the freedom to choose their own path whenever it is safe to do so.
Burrito sunbathing this morning:
P.S. It’s 3:00 p.m. and I just stepped outside for a quick breath of fresh air before publishing this post. The sun is now behind a wall of incoming clouds and the temperature is about to start plummeting. I started to think about how the chimpanzees were probably snuggling in the heated playroom when a dark, incongruous silhouette atop Young’s Hill caught my eye. I could just make out Missy’s stout frame as she galloped alone along the far edge of the enclosure. It was yet another surprise that shouldn’t have surprised me.