by Didi Crailsheim (primate carer)
All in all everything is fine and the boys are enjoying the slightly cooler weather of the last month. The Spanish afternoon heat generally renders it nearly impossible for the chimps to be active in the afternoons but now after a long and hot summer it seems the weather is finally allowing them to move freely all day long without running the risk of heat stroke. However evening meal times have become a bit more stressful lately for Toni who has been having some of his food stolen. Up until now, especially during dinners Marco would approach Toni and sit very close and beg for a part of Toni´s share. Marco would also do this very calmly and would respect it if Toni would not give him anything or only the banana peel instead of the fruit itself. However lately Bongo has started to steal Toni’s food directly out of his hands and strangely Marco’s has also changed and become more aggressive in asking for Toni’s food. This is not a big problem on its own as Toni still has more than enough food for himself and his carers always replace the stolen food. But it is an uncomfortable disruption in the normally calm atmosphere at dinner and the mutual respect the boys usually show each other. We are currently trying to find the reason for this sudden change in behaviour and we hope to find a way to resolve this.
Other news is that Bongo is behaving like an unruly teenager. This was most obvious recently when a film crew came to take some shots of the chimps. Bongo had nothing better to do than to make a big fuss, showing off his brute strength (that much is normal and was to be expected) and spit at the poor commentator as well as the camera man. This is just typical Bongo behaviour so it was not taken the wrong way.
There is not much news to tell about the family group They are behaving very well but there have been a few disputes. They have starting to meet Tom as the boys did before (however that I will explain in Tom´s section). We have noticed that the chimps are using the higher climbing ropes less and less. So we decided to try and motivate them to do so through enrichment strategies. It is important for the chimps to use the available space as much as possible because they would be travelling and foraging most of the day in the wild. But in captivity (even in sanctuaries like ours with large enclosures) their movement possibilities are obviously less than in the wild and even though we do our best to hide their food or make it more difficult to access it, it is still is much easier and faster to locate the food than in wild conditions. So basically we took some pieces of cloth and wrapped some food items in it and knotted them to high climbing ropes. This probably cost the carers more time to put up than the chimps to take it down but it’s worth it to have a positive effect. As there is a little food prize involved the chimps are far more motivated to climb up and even stay up high for a while (as we make the knots as tight as possible).
Well, Tom´s integration process did not continue as well as it started with Toni in the beginning. In the end he did quite well with Charly, Juanito and Toni but Marco and Bongo did not feel like welcoming him into their group. Well as in humans you just can´t force someone to like someone else. So we decided to introduce Tom to the family group and see if he might feel more comfortable with them. Therefore we started associations with Tom and each individual of the family group but after Tom’s last associations which didn't go some well, he seems to be understandably a bit more sceptical when it comes to meeting new chimps. But it’s to be expected and in the end it´s the new individual who decides how fast an integrated process moves along and if Tom feels like he needs more time we have to respect that. So for the meanwhile we will give Tom as many possibilities to make new friends, giving him little pushes in the right direction (encouraging positive social interactions) and we will be patient to see how everything turns out. Tom still enjoys his special treats from his carers and is very motivated and open minded with every kind of new enrichment (as you can see in this picture above).