On a recent spring day at Fauna I went up to the Chimphouse Mezzanine (a large play room with about 3 levels) to visit with Tatu after she had signed to me and asked if we could “GROOM.” As I started brushing her back with a hair brush she became startled. Loulis had just entered the mezzanine from outside, but he wasn’t alone. A small bird flew in right behind him. Tatu rushed to his side! Both Tatu and Lou were intensely watching a bird that had entered their enclosure. Both chimps were on the defense, ready to protect their home.
Tatu was sitting by some stairs where the bird thought it could rest. Wrong! Tatu assertively signed to the bird “YOU GO” and it worked! The bird was back on the move. However, it did not find a window to escape but instead, flew to rest on some caging in Jeannie’s room (another big play room) where the Rachel, Toby, and Chance happened to be spending time.
The bird popped down right next to Rachel who had been watching her neighbors Tatu and Lou deal with the intruder. As I was observing, I became rather nervous. Chimps by nature are very defensive of their territory. Even though the chimps of Fauna are living an easy going, retired lifestyle filled with games, puzzles, interactions, and other mind-stimulating enrichment, we can’t forget that they were meant to be in the wild.
Rachel and the bird stared at each other for a moment and then the bird flew out the window and disappeared. Everything was calm and right in the chimp house again. I went to see if Tatu wanted to keep grooming, but she had also disappeared… Maybe she needed a nap after all that excitement!
Kelsi Breen grew up in Washington state where her love of animals began. She attended college at Central Washington University where she graduated with a degree in Primate Behavior & Ecology/Psychology. Kelsi was an intern at the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute where she met Tatu and Loulis, now residents at Fauna. Kelsi was lucky enough to have the opportunity to follow her friends to Canada. Kelsi says: “My job is not glamorous. Being a caregiver is hard and often dirty. It can be physically and emotionally exhausting, but the hard and dirty work can also be fun and often the best part of my job!”