The Lipstick Incident

I was scheduled to train on interacting with the chimpanzees. Lisa (my trainer) told me that Tatu would really like some lipstick. I went to the bin and picked out several colors (including black, Tatu’s favorite) and some flavored chapsticks. We don’t give the lipstick to the chimpanzees; they stick their lips out through the caging and we apply it for them. We went into the human cage (a place where we do interactions with the chimpanzees. It is designed to make it look like the humans, not the chimpanzees, are in the small cage) to offer them to her. I lined them up on the floor so she could see what options I had for her. I signed, WHICH YOU WANT? Tatu was eating a piece of lime so I waited for her to finish. All of a sudden, Tatu got up and ran into the other room. She turned in the doorway and looked back at me. I had no idea what she was doing and I think she could see that on my face. She came charging back to the human cage with her hair pilo erect and a hose in her hand. She looked like she was displaying threat behaviors so I backed up in case she was going to try to hit me with the hose. When she got to where we were, she shoved the hose through the caging like I thought she was going to, but she wasn’t directing it at me. She went directly for the lipstick and knocked the black one into the red zone (the area around the enclosures where the chimpanzees can reach out and where we are never allowed to reach into…). The black lipstick was hers! Now whenever I apply lipstick for Tatu she positions me next to a hose so she is always ready (or maybe I am paranoid).

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2 Responses to The Lipstick Incident

  1. Debra says:

    I was wondering something recently. I just finished Next of Kin by Foust. There was a lot of description of enrichment activities, but no mention of music that I remember. People feel that the human response to music is deeply rooted. We share a lot of evolution with other primates… just how deeply rooted…? Is it something that primates in general can create/enjoy respond to?
    Have they been offered percussion instruments to play with? Do they have the fine motor control to handle stringed instruments? They do not have the vocal apparatus to speak, but could they use a wind instrument if they tried/wanted to?
    Have primates in the wild played with sound or drumming… is it the sort of behavior that would be overlooked if researchers were not looking for it? What kind of music would a Chimp create, if a chimp made music? What types of music do they like to listen to? Does music influence or reflect their mood as it seems to for us? Would dominant males incorporate agressive, loud drumming and movement as part of their dominance displays? in what other ways might music or rhythm be incorporated in wild primate cultures? Perhaps you can think of some similar questons.

  2. Jason Wallin says:

    Debra,
    Please see my response to a comment to Orchestra Day — http://www.friendsofwashoe.org/blog/2007/09/06/orchestra-day/ — for some info on chimpanzees and music.

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