Editor’s Note: Kelly has been working at CHCI for more than three years, and finished her time here as a Tech, the highest level of training available at CHCI.
December 31st is the end of my three year journey here at CHCI. I came to Central in 2005 for the Primate Behavior and Ecology major not knowing what to really expect. My sophomore year I started as an intern at CHCI and my life has never been the same. Not only have I met some really amazing human primates, but I have had the chance to meet four amazing non-human primates.
Some people find it hard to believe that I would be so strongly impacted by chimpanzees, but what they don’t know is the first time you really look a chimpanzee in the eyes, you have a realization that they are so much more complex than you ever gave them credit for, or at least that is how my experience went. It’s hard to put into words how it feels to have Tatu invite you into a peaceful grooming session for the first time, or how good it feels to have Dar offer you a kiss on a day when it seems like life is getting too crazy. I think the chimpanzees here have taught me some really great life lessons that I am lucky enough to walk away with. I think one lesson would be to enjoy the little things in life that most people take for granted, like being able to go outside. We aren’t able to let the chimpanzees go outside if it is below 20 degrees which, if you’ve ever been to Ellensburg, can be quite a few days in the winter. I have had a few moments where I would be opening the door and the excitement would be overwhelming.
Yet, most humans don’t have to worry about not having the choice to go outside. In fact, as humans we have almost unlimited choices in everything. The chimpanzees here are given as many choices as possible, including who they choose to be friends with, and like any friendship there is a level of patience and forgiveness involved. Some may argue that chimpanzees aren’t patient, but if you’ve ever trained someone to give a drink from a hose you will see a lot of patience on the chimp’s part. I have seen people accidentally spray the chimpanzees while trying to give them a drink and the chimpanzees’ reaction isn’t always anger, but often they may adjust and give the person another chance. I think this may be the greatest lesson I have learned from the family here.
Although I am leaving, I know the chimpanzees will be in good hands and will be well taken care of. So all I can say is goodbye Tatu, Loulis, and Dar. You guys are wonderful and I hope you continue to shape others who have the opportunity to be your friends. To all of the human primates, thank you for always supporting me and thank you for all the good times. I will miss you all.