Goodnight Chimps

Goodnight Chimps

The hours between 4:30 and 6:30pm are quiet at the sanctuary, a time when we are wrapping up are the while the chimps watch a movie and relax before their evening treats. It’s typically only caregivers around at this time, as all volunteer and intern shifts have ended. Topo was looking cozy in his nest of blankets, having chosen a spot in the indoor tunnel right underneath the heater. He laughed every time I entered the room.  After a long day of tours, our final for the year, the sanctuary had an energy as if all of the chimps and staff had collectively exhaled.

At 6:00 it was time to pass out treats and the chimps were excited to receive the rare sugar free sparkling juice with their head of lettuce. I held up their options and let them each pick the color they wanted. CJ was first to choose and knew she wanted orange. As she raced away, plastic bottle in hand, I hoped that she let it settle before trying to open that shaken bottle. Jackson and Emma followed suit, racing away to a private spot to settle in with their treat.

Goodnight CJ. Goodnight Emma. Goodnight Jackson, I love you kids!

Herbie was waiting patiently for each of the kids to receive their treat in the other room. When I entered he blew a raspberry, just in case I had forgotten about him. He kicked back and savored his treat. I asked if he was happy and he bobbed his head.

Goodnight Herbie, I love you!

When it was Thiele’s turn I again held up two color options. In her excitement, Thiele gestured wildly and was not clear which color she preferred so I gave her red. She pulled the sparkling juice out of the feed door, held it up, and grunted. She looked at me and grunted louder, holding the bottle higher. In her grunt I could hear her disappointment. “Was this what I asked for?” She seemed to say. I asked her if she wanted the green one and she put the red bottle back in the feed door for me to take. I replaced it with the green bottle and she took it back to her blanket nest, appearing satisfied.

Goodnight Thiele, I love you!

Topo didn’t care what color he received but he wasn’t willing to give up his prime nest location to climb down to the feed door, a spot which we both could tell Thiele had her eye on. He insisted on getting treats in bed so I held up the bottle for him to sip from. He let out a burp when he was finished with his drink.

Goodnight Topo, I love you!

I had saved a green bottle for Patti, already expecting which color would be her preference. I headed out to the Big Outdoor enclosure, knowing she would be choosing to spend the night outside as it was unseasonably warm. Patti came right over and hooted as she walked. CJ had headed outside, hoping to get seconds but Patti was quick to lay claim to her items. Patti let out happy grunts, with her mouth full of lettuce, washing it down with her drink.

Goodnight Patti, I love you!

I headed back to finish closing up. I watched everyone settle in to their blanket nests. Jackson and Emma were setting up to spend the last little bit of daylight outside as the sun set. I checked the heat, and turned off the lights. Topo chuckled as I locked the door.

Goodnight everyone, see you tomorrow.

People ask me if it’s hard to be a caregiver. Truth be told, this job is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. As I said goodnight to seven satisfied chimps though, I paused and smiled. They were happy and they were peaceful and it was all worth it.


Kaleigh R., Caregiver