Tonight, while conducting hierarchy observations in the area where the chimpanzees come in for dinner, I experienced firsthand a lesson in chimpanzee gastronomy. A bit of background:
First of all, preparing dinner for the chimpanzees can turn into quite an event, with lots of careful planning and creativity going into some of the meals. It’s a fair bet to say that the chimpanzees eat better than I do. And I know I speak for more people than just me when I say that it’s not uncommon to covet the chimpanzees’ dinners. Here’s the thing though…you might think that the chimpanzees will like something, given that it has all of their favorite ingredients (read: veggies, etc), and with the added bonus of an artful and creative presentation, you’d think that certain fare would be a sure success with the diners. Au contraire. For example, within the past two weeks, among the things that have shown up on the menu have been: homemade veggie pate, created and slaved over by Emily; and a full-out vegetable and noodle lasagna. I was particularly covetous of that lasagna. However, both items were pretty much fully snubbed by all of the chimpanzees. Dar, upon receiving his bowl of lasagna, promptly turned it upside down and deposited it on the floor. Talk about insulting the chef.
So back to the story: today, I was observing while the chimpanzees were being served their dinner. Tonight’s special was rice with veggies. Boy, was that ever a hit. Granted, I haven’t observed many dinners, but of the ones I have seen, this was by far the biggest blowout success. Tatu in particular was a true fan. She pounded down the first bowl, and then asked for, and received, a second, then a third, then a fourth helping. Then, apparently she wasn’t getting service from the human caretakers fast enough, so she walked over to Dar and ever so casually swiped the bowl out of his hands, and walkd away, whereupon she continued finishing Dar’s meal. Now you might say, aw, poor Dar! Well, don’t feel too badly for him. Like the good-natured guy he is, he just walked over to where Tatu had abandoned her own still-half-full bowl, and polished off the rest of hers. But Tatu wasn’t done. Then she asked for, and received, a 5th serving. Upon deciding she was done with that, she then walked over and swiped Loulis’s bowl from him! In total, I definitely saw her go through 6 bowls of rice. Granted, she wasn’t fully consuming all the contents of the bowls. Rather, she picked out her favorite things, but still, I’ve never seen her eat so much. And she wasn’t finished. Upon finishing up the first course, what does she ask for but MILK. The girl is a bottomless pit!