Taronga update on the gradual Introduction of three new females to the Taronga group
The last update I gave a couple of weeks ago was we had a group of 9 animals together in the new group and were fairly happy with the progress of how it was forming and bonding. A few days later we started to see some quite sustained aggression from one of the original Taronga females towards one of the new chimps. While this was not unexpected, the new female was becoming run down and our close observations over some days led us to take a different approach, returning the Taronga female back to her traditional group, meaning that the new group was reduced to 8 animals.
We then decided to give the new group more time for the targeted chimp to build strength and for more friendships to be formed. This proved to be a great exercise with improvements seen each day and no more targeted aggression seen.
Yesterday morning we were happy to continue with more introductions and brought across one of our dominant females Shiba (35 yrs old), her 8 yr old daughter and 2 year old son. Once again introductions were fairly calm and non eventful initially. Shiba is a strong confident animal but appeared to be scared at first to see the males again. She was very protective of her infant which we expected. There have been a few small spats between individuals but the three new girls have behaved well and we are starting to see friendships forming amongst the new group. Males are also regularly mating new females which is a positive sign.
This last step brings our group numbers to 11 animals in the new group and 11 remaining animals to introduce. Yesterday’s introduction was fairly significant as it was the first of our really dominant females and the first with a very young infant. We are happy with the results and will continue to watch things very closely.
Today we let the newly formed group out into the main exhibit to allow the new girls time to explore their surroundings. They were quick to come out and keen to explore every inch of the exhibit. Things were calm and quiet for the morning with some aggression towards one of the new females in the afternoon. Some visitors asked about the aggression in the group and we explained that this will occur from time to time during this introduction period, and that Chimps are tough, often sustaining a range of cuts and abrasions, but they heal very fast.
We’ll continue to let them explore the main exhibit for another week or so before planning the next introduction.
Where we are at the moment. We have a group of 9 (the newly forming group) and the existing group of 13. We have 3 adult males and 3 adult females in with the new girls. We’re giving the new group access to the main exhibit possibly during this week. We need the new girls to be completely familiar and confident with all the areas, both outside and in, before we can progress with more introductions.
We will need to introduce a more senior female next week, along with her two offspring. This will change the balance of power for the new girls. The third of the new females is still struggling to make friends and has shown aggression intermittently. Other females have responded in kind, and she now has some superficial wounds which we’re monitoring closely, along with the vets.
Today we have progressed again with our Chimp introductions and we are pleased to say that once again things have gone very smoothly. Today our 24yr old male and a 14 yr old female have been introduced to the newly formed group. Once again things have gone beautifully with no aggression other than a few little spats. The new girls were very interested in the younger female and she behaved well despite showing aggression towards them in the early days. The male showed excitement of seeing new girls and was seen mounting them.
The original group were calm and quiet outside knowing something was going on inside.
Over the next few hours there was lots of positive behaviours with grooming and animals lying next to each other and things continued well through the afternoon. Given that this group (or parts of) has been locked inside now for a few weeks to form friendships and bonds we’ve decided to let them outside tomorrow into the separation paddock to stretch their legs and see the sunshine.
This will no doubt change things again and we will watch closely before deciding on the next steps. We are now discussing the best times to introduce our dominant females who all have babies at toe. This will be one of the next challenges.
We’ve progressed further today with our Chimp introductions. It was an interesting introduction with two of our original females to the newly formed group of alpha and beta males and three new females. Once again this all took place inside the night facility.
Things could not have gone any smoother with slides opening and all animals following each other calmly, nice vocalisations, females presenting to one another and generally very promising behaviour. This continued for about 20 minutes with absolutely no screaming or aggression.
After the 20 mins there was a few small squabbles between the females, with our two defending one another (as expected as they are mother and daughter) and the three new females defending each other (which is a great thing as they have only known each other for a relatively short time of 6 months).
During these squabbles the males did not get involved (so they were not siding with either party of girls – another good thing). The girls would have a quick go at each other with some chasing and then it would die down just as quickly. The squabbles were nothing worse than what we regularly see amongst our current group. The third new female that was quite aggressive in Tuesday’s introduction was much calmer and reserved and one of our males mated one of the new females. After 1 hr things were still pretty much the same with long periods of calm, quiet, eating next to each other etc. Throughout this process our current group remained very calm outside.
By the afternoon things were still looking calm enough (a few odd fights) and we have decided to leave them overnight together with the rest of our group having access inside to one side of the house. We will leave things how they are over the next four days and if all is still calm next week add another two animals to the mix (24 year old male and a younger female). We feel it is important to let this group of newly formed seven individuals to have time to build friendships as much as possible before the next two are added. It is important to do things at a good pace but not lag either. Giving them time together will hopefully help with the future introductions of our dominant females who have been quite aggressive through the mesh to the new girls. This newly formed group will remain inside the night facility until next week.
The Senior Keeper we have here from Chester, who has been involved in several Chimp intros feels everything is going very well, however, we’re certainly not out of the woods yet and his advice is that there is a ‘honeymoon period’ with Chimp introductions. However in saying this we are all thrilled with progress so far and will continue to map out the next steps.
Today we progressed further with our Chimp introductions. . We have decided that the first two animals to be introduced to the new girls would be our alpha and beta males. When we finally lifted slides and animals made physical contact with each other for the first time, the boys were very excited and initially there was lots of screaming and chasing around the night house . This all took place inside the house where we had control to intervene if required.
The three females held their own and chased the boys just as much, with boys sometimes looking nervous and wanting to retreat. Things calmed after the initial first 15 minutes. Two of the females showed lots of positive signs approaching the boys and vocalising at each other. The third female was a little more difficult and pursued the boys aggressively for a lot longer. She seemed to flare up the aggression just as the other two females were intent on making new friends.
Our males were very restrained and we felt it all went well. They were left together all day and things had improved further by this afternoon with things much calmer and the third female choosing to have closer proximity with the boys without aggression.
We were really happy with how things went and have left them all together overnight with the rest of the main group outside in their exhibit. The plan for the next few days is to leave them the same. If that goes well, we’ll look at adding two females later this week. There could be some fireworks between females when we put them together, but we’ve selected lower ranking females that will be less likely to be aggressive to the newcomers.
12 July 2016
A quick update on chimps today. The three females were all anaesthetised today and moved up to the chimp house dens. It all went very smoothly, starting at 8am and finished by 10. To give the girls a chance to wake and familiarise themselves with their new surroundings, the main group were kept out on their exhibit first thing and will stay out overnight. The three females have all recovered well and are spending the night in the middle dens.
The new girls have been very quiet all afternoon, as have the group. Some of the group, in particular adult males, have spent a bit of time at the exhibit door slide as there is a very slight gap that they can peer through, so they would be aware that there are new chimps in there, but all have remained calm.
Only one excited response from our oldest female, Spitter. All in all very calm so far. Tomorrow the new girls will get to explore the whole of the night house while the group stay outside.