Enrichment, which includes activities that promote physical activity and mental stimulation, is essential for the well-being of captive chimpanzees. Chimpanzees have big brains with a relatively large cerebral cortex. In the wild, they spend their days foraging for food and there are ongoing challenges to engage their intellect. They socialize in complex groups and their bodies are in motion throughout the day whether climbing, walking, or active in play. With chimpanzees in captivity, enrichment provides a way to infuse some of the complexity of the natural enviroment into thier daily routine. Stimulation is essential to help keep their bodies and brains engaged. Providing enrichment not only helps prevent boredom, but it further develops bonds and strengthens relationships between the chimpanzees and the humans that care for them.
Fauna caregivers work very hard to provide daily enrichment to all 14 residents. We throw regular celebrations for birthdays, holidays and special events, decorating the chimphouse and making special meals and treats for everyone. Enrichment comes in the form of food and meal choices, treat puzzles, creative presentation and a wide variety of ingredients. Toys, magazines, clothing, art materials, and even wrapped cardboard boxes are all objects that the chimps enjoy exploring. Enrichment can also be structural and tunnels, ropes, climbing structures, tires and hammocks encourage exploration and physical activity in their home at Fauna. Socializing is also enrichment and it is a favourite past time for both caregivers and the chimpanzees when they get to spend some one-on-one time together. This takes many forms, including communication, play, grooming or sharing a meal. A great deal of time and effort goes into planning and implementing enrichment by our caregivers.
In this Caregiver Chronicles post, we share some video of longtime friends Mary Lee and Tatu as they enjoy each others company in the Fauna Chimphouse.
Tatu asks Mary Lee for OIL/LOTION. Mary Lee signs OIL and Tatu OIL with her left on her right. Mary Lee repeats this indicating Tatu should sign more clearly. Tatu then signs OIL more clearly, this time with her right on her left. Rubbing lotion on hands is a favorite pastime for Tatu.
Mary Lee spends some time grooming Tatu with a brush. She would normally use a hairbrush, but a clean scrub brush was handy and did the trick. Often caregivers will make chimpanzee mouth sounds such as toothclacks and lipsmacks, during grooming.
For more about caregiving and chimpanzees, please read Dr. Mary Lee Jensvold’s 2008 article:
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