It has been an interesting few weeks in the Orang-utan house since the Chimps moved in. By interesting, I mean exhausting, exciting, frustrating etc all these emotions rolled into one as both the Chimps and keepers come to grips with this new environment and the routines we wish to establish in order to manage it.
The great overall news is that the community certainly appears to adjusted itself well to this new environment and continues to thrive.
I’d like to share a few observations from the past few weeks.
Lulu is one of our smartest Chimps with great life experience but not one of our most mobile because she’s in her mid-50s. It is for these reasons that she has caused a few issues while we have been trying to establish a daily routine. Lulu quickly figured out that although we provided a breakfast feed alongside our request to move to the front of the house in the mornings, a much bigger feed was on offer in the exhibit when we let them out. For that prize Lulu would steadfastly move in the opposite direction from the rest of the group during the morning moves. Lulu would position herself in the raceway next to the exhibit door and was quite content to wait. No amount of coaxing would shift her. Like a punter camped out for three days in front of Ticketek, she knew patience was required but the rewards would be hers.
Naturally this didn’t help us at all so we had to tweak the routine to manage this behaviour.
Shiba and Sembe
We’re often asked if our Chimps have their own specific nest sites. It’s not the case, but like us, they certainly do develop favoured areas in which to hang out. One of our females, Shiba, has wasted no time in claiming the new raceway between Dens 5 & 6 as her own. Regardless of whether she has to travel to the exhibit or to the front of the Orang-utan House for food, Shiba and her daughter, Sembe, are usually back in this overhead raceway sooner rather than later. Why she likes this position, who knows? Maybe it gives her a better vantage point to monitor what’s going on. However, it’s enabled Sembe to indulge in a favourite pastime. With her little hands able to reach through the mesh, she acts like a spider in waiting, and as staff pass underneath she reaches down to grab at them. If you look up in reaction to this she stomps around with a pouty look on her face, indignant that you have disrupted her fun.
The adult males have eventually cottoned on to the fact that banging on the metal doors between the dens produces an inordinate amount of noise and so these sliding doors have received more attention in the last couple of weeks than the previous 10 years of Orang-utan occupation. Chimbuka has regained a lot of confidence and is exhibiting the majority of dominating behaviour amongst the males, but it is clear that the females still aren’t entirely keen on the idea of him being Alpha male. Last week I heard a commotion in the exhibit and recognised Chimbuka’s screams. As I reached the second level to look outside, I could see Chimbuka nursing a bite wound to his right foot. Somebody had obviously decided that he had crossed a line.
It’s certainly the infants and juveniles who appear to be enjoying their new home the most. Our youngest Chimpanzee Sule has turned into a bit of a fame monster, starring in reels of news footage and numerous press photos. It appears Sule has begun to enjoy this adoration. Often after the group has been given access to the indoor viewing yard in the afternoon and the majority of Chimps have dispersed again through the building you will find one little Chimp all by himself in the viewing yard up by the windows pandering to his adoring public.
We may indeed have created a monster.