ACTION! Enrichment Campaign

i May 24th No Comments by

Enrichment, which includes activities that promote physical activity and mental stimulation, is essential for the well-being of captive chimpanzees. It comes in many forms including; food and meal choices, treat puzzles, toys, mirrors, magazines, clothing, art materials, and even wrapped cardboard boxes. It can also be structural and tunnels, ropes, climbing structures, tires and hammocks encourage exploration and physical activity in their home at Fauna. The ACTION! Enrichment Campaign will support exciting enrichment progams this summer and we need your help!

(Photos: Above: Mirrors are a favourite item with some of the chimpanzees, like Binky. Below: Petra and Toby share a toy. © NJ Wight)


Petra and Toby Share a toy

Intern Study Program

Our interns will be arriving next month and this year their summer study project will be focused on observing and documenting how the chimpanzees use enrichment. This research will help us better understand the needs of our residents to ensure they receive the highest level of care. (Last year the summer interns completed a valuable Space Use study which you can read about on page 18 of our Annual report. )

Summer interns at Fauna

2016 summer interns studying the chimpanzees use of space at Fauna.

To help us provide the chimpanzees with a varied and interesting collection of toys and objects this summer you can contribute to the ACTION! Enrichment Campaign! Every dollar donated will go directly towards purchasing items for the Fauna chimpanzees. We are looking for many specific objects including grooming items, cardboard and paper products, tubing and dress up items. This fund will allow us to purchase the appropriate items and will be an enormous help to ensuring the chimpanzees have everything they need.

You can read more about the importance of enrichment in our Caregiver Chronicles.

Chimpanzees Signs at Fauna Foundation

i May 17th No Comments by

By Mary Lee Jensvold, Ph.D.

Tatu and Loulis lived at the Chimpanzee & Human Communication Institute in Ellensburg Washington from 1980 until they moved to Fauna Foundation in August 2013. Tatu had acquired signs of American Sign Language (ASL) during her childhood from humans, and Loulis from other signing chimpanzees. All caregivers at CHCI interacted with Tatu, Loulis and the other signing chimpanzees in their family using ASL (Fouts & Mills, 1997). Caregivers recorded all signs they observed in a daily Sign Checklists. When Tatu and Loulis moved to Fauna a few of the caregivers from CHCI accompanied them, and the caregivers continued to record the signs in daily Sign Checklists. Dombrausky, Hings, Jensvold and Shaw presented a comparison of the variety of signs from CHCI days to Fauna days at a recent psychological conference and this post highlights some of these findings. (Dombruasky, et al. 2017).

We selected Sign Checklists from 2004-2006 (CHCI) and 2014-2016 (Fauna Foundation). We compared the variety of vocabulary items between these periods that each chimpanzee used in a day, rather than the volume of signing.

Table 1, below, shows the range of the number of different signs that appeared in a day. For Tatu the range at CHCI was 1 – 42 versus 1- 58 at Fauna. At each location she had at least one day when only one sign was recorded. At Fauna she had at least one day when 58 different signs were recorded. Loulis’ range was the same at each location 1-12. This shows they are still using a large breadth of vocabulary despite the change in environment.Table 1. Range of number of different signs in a day in the year.

We also compared the frequency of each vocabulary item. The top five signs appear in Table 2. Loulis’ top sign was always CHASE a favored activity. At CHCI Tatu’s top signs involved activities. SMELL was frequent which is a game involving smelling the breath of a friend. MASK was frequent and was a game in which a friend dons a mask. At Fauna in the first two years Tatu’s top sign shifted to food items such as MILK and CHEESE.

Table 2. Top five signs for each chimpanzee by year.

Table 2. Top five signs for each chimpanzee by year.

At Fauna both chimpanzees used indexical signs more often in the third year, THAT for example. Indexical signs, which use pointing, are intelligible by signers and nonsigners alike. At Fauna there are caregivers who do not sign. Tatu and Loulis adjusted their signing to the caregivers’ comprehension. This is a theme prevalent in the sign language studies at Fauna Foundation. The chimpanzees adjust appropriately to the state of their conversational partner. (see Bodamer & Gardner, 2002; Jensvold & Gardner, 2000; Leitten et al, 2012).

We are grateful to the years of support from Winley Foundation, David Bohnett Foundation, and Friends of Washoe for supporting caregivers who are skilled in American Sign Language and are reliable data collectors.

For the complete poster please visit


References Sited:

Bodamar, M. D., & Gardner, R. A. (2002). How cross-fostered chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) initiate and maintain conversations. Journal of Comparative Psychology116, 12.

Dombrausky, K., Hings, C., Jensvold, M.L., & Shaw, H. (2017, April). Variability in Sign Use in Chimpanzees Before and After Relocation. Poster Presented at Rocky Mountain Psychological Association, Salt Lake City, UT.

Fouts, R., & Mills, S. T. (1997). Next of kin: What chimpanzees have taught me about who we are.

Jensvold, M.L.A., & Gardner, R.A. (2000). Interactive use of sign language by cross-fostered chimpanzees. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 114, 335-346.

Leitten, L., Jensvold, M.L., Fouts, R., & Wallin, J. (2012). Contingency in requests of signing chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Interaction Studies, 13, 147-164.


Image above: Tatu signs BLACK  ©NJ Wight

Caregiver Chronicles: A Visitor in the Chimphouse

i May 3rd 1 Comment by

Bird in the House

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.


Caregiver Chronicles: Enrichment With Mary Lee and Tatu

i Apr 2nd No Comments by

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. (more…)