When I started to write this, J.B. was leading a Summer Visit tour:
I’d be willing to bet that one of the things he explained is what we put in the termite mound / treat rock on Young’s Hill. Generally, what we say is that the termite mound mimics ant hills or termite mounds that chimpanzees encounter in the wild, and we provide the chimpanzees with tools to access the goodies inside. It’s great enrichment because it involves tool use and problem solving, and it taps into natural chimpanzee behavior.
The difference, we explain, is that chimpanzees in captivity do not appreciate termites and ants! They react to “bugs” the same way most industrialized human cultures do – as a nuisance, but definitely not as a source for food. And that is why, instead of insects, we put things like mashed up bananas and/or peanut butter in the mound for the chimpanzees to fish out.
The chimpanzees, however, have a way of proving what we say to be wrong. I still don’t think that any of the chimpanzees would appreciate it if we put insects in the pvc tubes that screw into the termite mound, but Jamie and Missy have recently discovered a surprising delicacy – wasp larvae.
This is doubly surprising, given that the chimps certainly do not like wasps, and Jamie has been stung before. Apparently, that risk is worth harvesting this new treat. I wonder how they even discovered that the nests contained something they would like!
Here are a few photos I managed to get of Jamie with a nest that she brought in from Young’s Hill:
Watching her, it wasn’t entirely clear to me how much of the larvae she was eating, because she seemed to be selectively eating some parts and not others, but she was clearly enjoying the experience:
I haven’t been able to capture any photos of Missy with wasp nests, so you’ll have to take my word that she is very excited when she has a nest, perhaps even more so than Jamie.
Speaking of Missy, it’s her 40th birthday tomorrow!!!
Above is a photo of Missy from today as she took a rest before running the perimeter of Young’s Hill.
I defy anyone to call Missy old – she has one of the youngest spirits I’ve known in a chimpanzee. Whether she is searching for wasp nests, running like mad, wrestling with her BFF Annie, or demanding garden tomatoes, she demonstrates, daily, a sense of freedom that she’s found in her second chance at life (read this blog post from 2014 about Missy’s quite literal second chance).
We will be having a big celebration for Missy 40th tomorrow, so be sure to check here on the blog for photos of the party and wish her a happy birthday!