There have been fantastic developments (for us keepers) within the male politics of Taronga’s Chimpanzee community.
This week we saw an apparent reconciliation between Lubutu and Chimbuka. Both males were engaged in intense mutual grooming.
This is a sure sign of good intentions by both chimpanzees.
What followed after that was a pretty full on love-in with Lubutu being groomed hand and foot by various females and Chimbuka close by playing enthusiastically with our youngest, Sule. Sule was having such a great time, he did not know which way to turn. He engaged in full on robust pretend-wrestling with Chimbuka, but then thought “hey I might be missing out on stuff with Lubutu”, so he launched himself into the grooming melee. Finding they were completely entranced with their own activities, he quickly returned to resume play with Chimbuka.
Our third adult male Shabani was isolated from all this interaction and it showed as he undertook a series of displays banging on the back doors of the exhibit; no doubt from frustration.
The more relaxed atmosphere of the community in general has led to boisterous explorative behaviour by our two youngest individuals, Sembe, 20 months, and Sule, 18 months.
Both are at that period of life when every moment is an exciting adventure. Chimp babies in the wild will spend the first six months of their lives clinging to Mum’s belly before moving to her back in what we call the jockey position. In our group things tend to move a little quicker and both infants were riding jockey by 3 months. Sembe’s mother ,Shiba, is very protective so Sembe had a much more sheltered upbringing; Sule is far more independent due to the fact that his mother Sacha was not the most diligent mother she could of been. Luckily for Sule, when he was out exploring at a young age he could rely on his older brother Shikamoo. Shikamoo amazed us with his attention to Sule, repeatedly keeping him safe by scooping him up and returning him to Mum whenever things looked like getting out of hand. This certainly was exemplary sibling behaviour from a male Chimpanzee.
With all this behind them Taronga’s own dynamic duo, Sembe and Sule are always ready and willing to test whatever boundaries there are to test. Both will readily swing from their hands in the night dens over to where the keepers are in order to proclaim their toughness over keepers through rigorous displays of foot stomping etc., always of course managing to stay just out of reach of any actual danger with an open escape route back to Mum being an absolute necessity.
Watching and experiencing these two in these formative years of their lives is one of the great privileges that we Chimp Keepers get to enjoy.
After a hard day’s work these are the images that you take home with you.