New Enrichment!

New Enrichment

Due to the extremely cold weather lately, every day is a challenge to clean as many chimp enclosures as possible, without sending them outside. I am often asked if the chimps like the snow, and my response is always- How do you like walking barefoot in the snow? (People usually haven’t considered this aspect .) When the chimps do go out, they tend to travel from dry patch to dry patch as quickly as possible, and collect blankets to bundle up in. Today, it had been a few days since we had been able to clean the indoor Playhouse enclosure, so we went all out with enrichment. Herbie, Thiele, Emma, and Jackson spent a good hour exploring all the exciting foods. Emma snagged about 12 salad boxes of lettuce and chowed down. Thiele grabbed three heads of romaine lettuce and an onion. Herbie went straight for the kiddie pools filled with ice and frozen strawberries, and found a container that had a tiny bit of honey. He licked all that he could out of it, and continued to carry it for the next half hour, hoping he could enjoy a few more drops. He also snagged a coconut, but seemed a bit perplexed as to how to get into it. Later we saw Thiele with another coconut, and rather than smashing it or biting it like some of the other chimps do, she just put one foot on it, bounced up and down a few times with all her weight on it, and cracked the fruit in half! In order to avoid getting his hands too cold in the ice pools, Herbie dumped the whole thing out, so he could pick out the fruit. A few minutes later, Thiele did the same thing with the other pool! It’s amazing how one chimp’s brilliant idea is picked up and used by another one.

The real highlight of new enrichment was a device that Kaleigh conceived, and I helped her build. It’s a wooden post with holes of various sizes drilled in it, and then many pvc rings, just larger than the post, stacked surrounding it. In the holes, we hid treats and bits of honey, and the chimps had to slide the rings up and down to access the holes. Jackson was interested, but didn’t really understand what he had to do, and wasn’t interested in standing up long enough to get the treats out. Thiele came along, and pulled it toward her, holding it horizontally, and moving the rings to get the best treats out of it. Jackson attempted to scavenge while she held it, but Thiele is serious about her treats, and was far more successful. After she got all that she wanted, Jackson came in as cleanup crew and finished off all Thiele had left behind. We are excited to try this device out with different chimps and treats. It was clearly a good challenge that kept them busy problem solving for a long time!


Makaela T., Caregiver