“Today, just do what you can.”
Chimpanzee communication is a fascinating field of study. I only consider myself lucky I somehow ended up studying chimpanzee gestures. Though I study chimpanzee non-vocal communication. The vocal and auditory side of communication is still highly interesting. The food grunt in particular amazes me, mostly because I too make similar noises when I come across my favorite foods. So let’s play a game! Can you guess whose food grunts are in this video? The answers are at the end of video. No peeking!
In other news, the chimpanzees were also treated to some freshly harvested cattails from Diana today. With one of their favorites bounties harvested, Anthony and I decided to make a lunch forage on Young’s Hill.
Negra raced to the closest and largest of the cattails and made her way back to the Greenhouse.
Jody also grabbed her first cattail of the afternoon, with some sides of carrots and sweet potatoes and a Burrito right behind her.
Annie was also one of the first to snag a cattail and raced every which way collecting some of the other food before making her way back to the Greenhouse to escape some sudden wind.
With another hot, summer day, there was very little activity to be had to try to escape the heat. Early in the morning, the Group of Seven were given access to Young’s Hill, with Burrito leading the charge.
Negra however, decided to stay in the shady Greenhouse to escape the morning sun with a yellow-haired Troll Doll. None of the other chimpanzees stayed out for long, with Jody being the first to retreat back to the Greenhouse.
In one of the few instances where the clouds decided to provide some much needed relief, Jamie politely asked me to join her on a walk around Young’s Hill. Ok. She may have demanded it since it was one of the few instances she felt decent to go out. Missy (not pictured because she zoomed right passed us), Foxie, and Burrito also decided to join us.
After our walk, Foxie decided to follow Negra, Jody, and Annie’s lead by resting in the cool front rooms. Notice her Orange Blossom doll also snuggled in for an afternoon nap.
The Californian Three also had similar ideas. For the most part, they also decided to stay inside. Willy B did venture out into the Courtyard, but not for too long. Mave decided to just stay inside.
Willy B also found a new use for an old enrichment item. Both groups of chimpanzees share a large, stuffed dog that makes it’s way to both sides of the building after being washed.
Willy B decided this stuffed dog was his new bed.
It was only a few short months ago, Katelyn reported on how paired swallows started to nest. Now that summer is here, their babies have hatched and they have been helping keeping the sanctuary safe by being on guard. Even keeping us caregivers on our toes at times.
Dylan Most is sponsoring this wonderful day of sanctuary for the chimpanzees to wish them “a great summer!” Dylan, thank you for helping the chimpanzees (and humans) celebrate this season of light, growth and abundance!
Like every year, in some ways it’s hard to believe it’s already summer here in the northern hemisphere. But with many of us having slowed down some, or most of our lives during these past months due to the global pandemic, we’ve also hopefully found moments to be more present with time making the arrival of summer seem, well, right on time. As it always is. It’s definitely a season when we humans here at CSNW relish watching the chimpanzees enjoy their days full of sun, lush scenery, adventure and the ease that only summertime brings.
Jody and Negra (background):
Burrito and Foxie and Strawberry Shortcake:
Mave and Honey B:
We often jokingly refer to the chimpanzees as Pacific Northwest chimps due to their love of our often quintessential cloudy, on the cool side days. Though such weather is much less common here on the eastern side of Washington state, we relish our stormy springs. Well, most of us. Okay, maybe just me and the chimpanzees. 😉 Having been born and raised in the foggy coastal redwoods, I understand the chimps’ joy completely. And despite the rainy morning, the chimpanzees didn’t hesitate to rush out to Young’s Hill, hair standing on end with excitement, still clutching their breakfast, to head off on a walk or just enjoy their pineapple outdoors:
Missy and Jody conferring about their neighbors:
Missy wasted no time heading off to run around the perimeter in the rain, chow bag in mouth. She kept stopping to see who was joining her and finally took off at full zoom on her own:
Foxie and her apples:
Burrito is not a fan of walking in the grass or walking in the rain. I mean, tall, wet grass?? Ugh. But he braved it all to come along on a walk with Jamie and Missy and I. Why on earth he took the route full of tall, wet grass vs. the cleared path, only he knows. But he’s just the most endearing guy, sneer face and all:
Burrito, Jamie and Missy:
Nutmeg, Betsy, Honey and Meredith chose to take cover under the Ponderosas in the rain and seemed to think the chimps were kooky for being out in it:
Burrito as it began raining in earnest:
Meanwhile, there’s Honey B. As an enrichment item for the big celebration on Saturday for Queen Negra’s birthday and the chimps’ twelve year anniversary in sanctuary, a knit crown was tossed in the mix of party stuff. The Queen didn’t take an interest in it, but who do you think we found sporting it around her neck today?! Of course! Honey B! Creative person that she is. It’s a little hard to make out as she had been ripping and running and zooming, but it really reminds me of the crown Max in “Where the Wild Things Are” wears.
Here she is enjoying a snack while sitting on her new birthday skateboard:
Sometimes morning patrols around Young’s Hill are busy! There are wild edible plants that need picking and territories that need to be checked up on. There’s something special about seeing the chimpanzees go on outdoor adventures, both together and apart, each with their own idea of how to spend the morning.
Right now, I know that many folks are struggling to adjust to the new normal: a degree of social isolation, economic strife and general mistrust that rails against our innate drives to be together. No matter what we believe should be happening right now, I think it’s safe to say that most of us are frustrated, worried, and even exasperated. We want this to be over, but it won’t end.
Instead, we must look at our own lifestyles, identify the things that truly bring us fulfillment, and work to keep those fires lit even as boredom, anxiety, loneliness and grief do their best to snuff them out.
Amid this uncertain period of perpetual unease, one new development in particular is giving us all some inspiration: the methodical progress and unexpected bravery of Willy B.
I could sit here writing about this chapter of Willy B’s story for hours on end. Given the gradual adjustment of the three new chimpanzees to life at CSNW, punctuated by a couple heartbreaking setbacks, Willy’s recent exploits have given his tale the flavor of an odyssey. It’s now a epic saga of sorts, complete with a courageous, endearing and hairy little hero. Lately, he seems to be on a vague quest with a yet undetermined goal.
In recent weeks, I think that other staff have done an amazing job describing each step in his journey. If you’re looking to catch up, I suggest skimming the previous blog posts about Willy, the Courtyard, and the tall wooden structure that he is gradually conquering one ladder rung at a time. If you are really feeling ambitious, you could skip back to last June when we first announced that we would be welcoming three chimpanzees from the Wildlife Waystation, including a mysterious dominant male named Willy B.
Today, I’m focusing on one particular chapter describing one short event. It occurred over the span of an hour today in the Courtyard.
We’ve been setting food items in small caches throughout the Courtyard to entice Willy B and the others to explore. Gradually, Willy B’s bottomless appetite is leading him to venture into parts unknown. He recently made sporadic forays out onto the boardwalk until he determined that each section was safe. He then grew comfortable sitting at the end of the boardwalk and began to investigate the base of the multi-tiered wooden structure that it leads to. Last week, he climbed the tower, and he has been slowly acclimatizing to the new sensations of sitting on wood decking, perching high above the ground, and being able to see clear over the Chimp House. He’s made tremendous progress, but there are still areas of the Courtyard that he has yet to explore. For example, the structure has two thin spits of decking that jut out toward the rest of Young’s Hill. These pier-like extensions are connected by a web of twisted vines (“the ropes”) and a large hammock, all made from repurposed firehose.
Here is an old photo of caregiver Chad testing out the hammock after it was first made and hung inside the building. It was moved outdoors when we realized that the chimps didn’t seem interested unless we placed food on it.
Today, I placed a whole apple on the hammock. Willy B will do almost anything for an apple, but I wasn’t sure if he’d have the confidence to go after this one. He’s an athletic and intelligent individual with a bold personality, but he’s not as skilled at climbing as an adult chimpanzee should be.
Well, he tried. He tried hard.
First, he scouted the area.
Then, he tested whether the new sections of decking were safe to sit on. They were.
Suddenly, shockingly, Willy B dropped down below the decking and swung himself over towards the hammock.
He was so close. But then, with the visible apple just out of reach, he turned back. It seems that he wasn’t yet confident in his ability to make the final swing over to the hammock. From the safety of the decking, he surveyed the area from above a second time.
He dropped down again and swung back to the hammock, gripping the firehose vines with his chubby chimpanzee feet.
This wasn’t the right moment to try out the hammock, though. He backtracked all the way to the safest spot in the Courtyard at the base of the structure. There, he checked in on the neighbors, nibbled on a slice of tomato, and let out a muted display.
After expressing himself as only a chimpanzee can, he gave the ropes another try.
Again, he retreated and regrouped.
He mustered up the bravery and strength to make one more push. He got so close, but seemed hesitant to put any weight on the hammock and did not reach out to grab the apple.
Willy b even thought about lowering himself to the ground to find a new route over to the hammock, but he apparently decided the dirt and grass were too strange for today. He paused, suspended from the decking with his toes skimming the blades of grass, and then hoisted himself back up without ever planting his heels on the firm ground below.
Fortunately for Willy B, he gets several apples each day (along with many other nutritious foods). Importantly, he’ll get another shot at the elusive hammock apple for as many days as he needs. If he’s ambitious enough, he’ll conquer the ropes tomorrow just as he has so many other unusual obstacles in his path. We’re hopeful that he will eventually grow to enjoy climbing and exploring even without the promise of a shiny red apple to propel him forward, just as a chimpanzee should. Either way, I look forward to watching the saga continue.
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