There are a lot of things that one must learn to do when training to be a caregiver at CHCI. I have been training for Chimp Care for a few months now, and the only thing I had yet to experience was an interaction on berm (the walkway and garden along the outdoor enclosure).
The chimpanzees do not usually stay outside for long periods of time during the winter months, so my trainer told me to let her know when an opportunity to interact arose. We have been fortunate enough to have warm and sunny weather for the past week, and one day when I was berm Tatu and Loulis came outside and sat on the ledge of the enclosure. Tatu had a magazine with her and began to sign to herself, also known as private signing. She flipped through the pages, pointing THAT/ at various pictures. She also signed BLACK/, ICE CREAM/, and CLOTHES/ while looking through the magazine. Loulis was sitting nearby, watching her. I immediately radioed my trainer, Lisa, telling her that Tatu and Loulis were outside and, since Tatu was signing, may want to interact.
Sure enough, as soon as Lisa came up and Tatu realized we could interact (while in the training phase, we must have our trainer present in order to interact), she put the magazine down and signed THAT/ at the not-so-exciting-in-winter garden. Unsure as to what she was asking for, I signed back WHAT/? Tatu clarified, signing FLOWER THERE/ towards the ground. Unfortunately, Lisa and I could not see any flowers so we asked FLOWER WHERE/? Tatu signed FLOWER THERE/ once more, perhaps indicating that she knew flowers would soon be growing now that the sun was shining again.
At the same time, Loulis began sticking the end of a fire hose through the caging so we could play tug-of-war. I grabbed the end and we played for a few minutes, both of us with big chimpanzee play-faces on. Before I knew it the next person came up for their berm shift, and it was time for me and Lisa to head back inside. I always love signing with the chimpanzees and playing games, but my favorite part of the day was watching Tatu signing to herself. I just wish I could have seen the magazine to see the pictures she was so excited about!