by Didi Crailsheim (primate carer)
There were a few rainy days this month and the boys have had to stay inside but they didn't seem to mind; in fact they appeared to be in high spirits. They still have access to the tunnel for some fresh air and they were spoiled with lots of enrichment activities and objects to play with. Toni, who doesn´t always feel like joining the rest of his group in the outside enclosure, has been a lot more sociable lately and he has spent much more time with the group. Also, we were told by a student who is observing the boys every day that they are playing a lot and not only each of them with Juanito but at times all of the group together. So it seems that Bongo and Marco are getting along better again, even to the point of playing together, which is a big relief. Especially just before dinner Marco and Bongo like to run for a final playful round of the enclosure before going inside. (Click here to see Video of Marco handling a snake: Chimps normally are afraid of snakes and would climb somewhere high making an alarm sound (like Juanito on the left). Marco however is the brave exception who always tries to chase the snake away, tossing it around)
Because we had to do some minor renovations in the family’s sleeping quarters, the group had to sleep in another room for a few days. For most of the chimps, change is good so before dinner there was always a lot of excitement. This excitement can go too far at times and definitely makes it more difficult for the volunteers to give the chimps their food before bed time. But on the other hand it creates a lot of emotion and liveliness which is always welcome. However the chimp who is probably the happiest was Sara, because she loves sleeping in the nextdoor room. She loves it so much that it causes some problems, because in the mornings she would often decide not to leave it, to go out with the others. She definitely had a fun and relaxing time but the real problem was with the boys because in order to meet Tom in the association cages, they had to pass through that specific bedroom. Which sadly for Tom was not always possible if Sara refused to leave. However, renovations are done and everything is back to normal, so the boys and Tom could start seeing each other again.
Tom is a delight when it comes to feeding or moving between rooms. Whatever food, enrichment he is given or wherever he is supposed to be, he always seems to be very excited and is very happy about it. So happy at times (especially with enrichment) that he sometimes gasps for air. We are happy to see him so content and of course we take it as a compliment to our room service and kitchen.
Regarding Tom's integration; after seeing him with Toni, we had hoped perhaps for too much with the other boys. But Marco was not as open as Toni. So they had a bit of a fight which led to some minor injuries, though nothing to be worried about … so they will need some more time. With Bongo there also was a bit of a skirmish but we think it was just to measure their strength a bit, so there was no need to separate them at all. Charly on the other hand didn´t really know what to do. He would display around Tom (but wouldn´t dare make any physical contact), but Tom as calm and passive as he is, didn't react and just walked on. Although they spend some time together they will definitely need some more time to open up. But finally Juanito was nearly as happy to see Tom as Toni was before and they played a lot but Juanito would sometimes go a bit over board and Tom stopped playing with him. So all in all, Tom is progressing in his integration but even though he is a very calm chimp, he still is an adult male and as expected he needs more time to be integrated than a female or a juvenile would need.
Welcome back Alba: Alba one of the head keepers is back after maternity leave and everyone, including the chimps, are so happy to have her back. Whenever she came to visit within her time off, the chimps would always get excited and were desperate to greet her. As for the rest of us it is wonderful to have back a dearly missed member of the team and two more very able hands to take care of everything that needs to be done in Mona.
We are looking for a second hand CD-player and CDs of nature/animal sounds: Our CD-player broke recently and we would like to do some sound enrichment which thw chimps enjoy very much: This means hiding the CD-player (or even having it visible) in the bushes around the chimp's outside enclosure. We play some calm music or even better nature or animal sounds or even other chimpanzees to stimulate them a little bit. The trick is to put it on low volume so as not bother any chimps who might not be interested or prefer not to hear it. But from previous experience we know that several chimps really like to listen to the sounds. Toto for example would abandon his favorite napping spot to move to a closer (but still shady) spot. The younger chimps are always curious and especially Waty who seems to enjoy it because as soon we stop the sounds and start putting the CD-player away she gets very grumpy.