The Night-Time Routine

You might wonder, “Where do the chimpanzees go at night?” Good question! The chimpanzees have night enclosures, a series of four rooms connected by doors and tunnels, where they are invited in for their meals and to sleep at night. If you have visited CHCI during a Chimposium and remember the East and West Rooms, the night enclosures run the length of these rooms, but behind the walls that you see during the Chimposium. A person who goes through very intensive safety training operates hydraulic doors which they open for the chimpanzees to move from one area to the next. Humans are never in the same area with the chimpanzees at the same time.

If one of the chimpanzees chooses not to come in for dinner after being invited in, that’s fine; they don’t have to come in if they don’t want to. In that case, someone would stay up on the berm until it gets dark or all the chimpanzees are in, whichever comes first. Even after dark, if one of the family members is still outside, a human stays in the building with them, all night long, to make sure everyone is safe.

Let’s assume that everyone has come in for dinner, maybe something like oatmeal with onions (Washoe’s favorite) or plain white rice (Loulis’s favorite). Once everyone is safely inside the night enclosures and is enjoying their meal, humans enter their playrooms and the outdoor enclosure (the spaces you might remember from a Chimposium) to begin cleaning.

We begin by removing all of the enrichment items from the rooms. Every paper product including magazines, drawing paper, and cardboard gets thrown away at the end of each day. Every piece of clothing, all the sheets, and each stuffed animal gets laundered with bleach. All the other enrichment items, toys, purses, shoes, laminated photos, balls, and so on, gets thoroughly washed and sprayed with a very strong disinfectant.

Each of the rooms gets cleaned with high pressure hot water, is sprayed with disinfectant, rinsed again, and then squeegeed dry.

While cleaning is going on, the server continues to serve the chimpanzees their dinner, perhaps accompanying the oatmeal with a tasty tomato or cucumber. The server then gives the chimpanzees their night-time enrichment, small or slender items — like hoses, small toys, laminates, magazines, masks, and so on — anything that can fit through the gaps in the woven-wire fencing, or through the slots beneath the fencing where the chimpanzees are served their meals. The server also provides a burlap sack and two blankets for each chimpanzee to make a nest for the night. Chimpanzees in free-living situations have been observed to make a new nest every night (weaving them from leaves, branches, and the like), so Washoe, Loulis, Tatu and Dar are given the option to do the same thing.

Once cleaning is over, the enclosures are securely locked, and the meal server and other caregivers say their goodnights to the chimpanzees. We’ll return again the next morning to start another day at CHCI.

You can definitely see why it takes a lot of hard-working volunteers to keep Washoe’s family enriched, safe, and healthy!

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