Chimpanzee Masquerade – Part 1

(Created by Rosie S.)
The chimpanzees received lots of masks from their friends and supporters this Halloween season. Here are a few photos of Tatu enjoying the masks you sent to her!

Tatu with her “Comedy” mask (Thanks, Julia!)


dscf5716.jpgTatu carrying one of her new transparent masks


ta-with-mask.jpgI was very excited to find a transparent mask wearing black lipstick for Tatu this year. You can read about her first encounter with the mask here. For weeks after I gave her the mask she carried it with her everywhere and frequently gave it to her caregivers to wear. A few interns and docents were kind enough to write up the stories when they encountered Tatu interacting with this and other new masks so they could be shared here with you.

From Cindy:
“Near the beginning of my chimposium observation Tatu rushed in from outside to the West Playroom wearing a new mask fully covering her face; apparently she had black lipstick on underneath too although we couldn’t see that! She excitedly thumped the glass looking directly at the guests. She was very playful and seemed to want attention. I picked up on her excitement and told the guests about how unusual this was since Tatu is often quiet during observations. A short time later she’d removed the mask and collected a few stuffed animals and a blanket in the East Playroom. She sat on the blanket with her back to the guests and rocked with her animals.”

From Austin:
“I was sitting on berm reading a magazine. All of a sudden I heard the unmistakable sound of Tatu signing PERSON, by smacking her palm on the top of her head. I looked up and Tatu was sitting on the ledge directly in front of me. Tatu immediately signed MASK THERE, pointing to one of the new masks that had been recently purchased for the chimpanzees and was sitting next to me. I picked up the mask and approached Tatu. I asked, WHAT THAT? pointing to the red lipstick marked lips of the mask. Tatu immediately signed LIPSTICK RED. I singed YES, and squeezed the mask under the caging to her. She immediately put it on, signed MASK, and quickly ran inside, clearly enjoying herself.”

From Dani:
“As a chimpanzee caregiver and a Chimposium docent, I have many different opportunities to interact with Tatu, Loulis, and Dar. Most frequently, they occur while I am working in the back as a caregiver. However, around Halloween I was leading a group of Chimposium guests on an observation when Tatu pointed at me. I asked her, WHAT? and she replied MASK THERE. We had a small collection of masks lined up on the edge of the window, so I picked up the one with black lips because Tatu had seemed especially interested in that one previously. As soon as I picked it up, she repeatedly signed MASK until I put it on and gave her a friendly head nod. She seemed satisfied, watching me until I removed the mask (it is a little tricky speaking with guests when wearing a mask!). The following day, when leading another group of guests on an observation, Tatu once more pointed at me. Anticipating what she was asking, I picked up the mask to her enthusiastically signing MASK. I put the same mask on and again gave a friendly head nod, much to Tatu and the guests’ excitement, until I took the mask off a few moments later. I love interacting with the chimpanzees when it is just them and I, but these interactions were very special because a group of guests were able to feel included and see just how amazing our jobs are!”

From Tracy:
“I was doing hydraulic operator training with Mary Lee. Dar and Loulis came in for lunch straight away, but Tatu paused in the West Playroom. I walked into the human cage and asked her READY EAT? Tatu looked at me and then emphatically signed what looked like SMELL and then signed THAT with her finger pointing toward my foot. This was during the waning warmth of autumn and I was optimistically wearing turquoise Keen flip flops with my toenails painted blue. I stared back at Tatu and asked SMELL SHOES? Tatu emphatically signed SMELL THAT. I pointed to my feet and tried to clarify signing THAT CLEAN…YOU WANT SMELL? I raised a sandal-ed foot into the air and tried to “waft” the smell of my foot to her. I’m sure that I looked absurd, balanced on one foot and trying to waft the smell of my sandal to her, but I didn’t want to be a bad sport. Tatu sat and stared at me, long and hard. I slowly put my foot down realizing that we must have had some kind of mis-communication.  Then she signed, clearly and unmistakably, MASK THERE. Her finger wasn’t pointed at my foot, as I had thought, but behind me, and towards the ground. I turned around very slowly and saw a mask that had been hiding in the corner. I sheepishly handed Tatu the mask and signed ME FUNNY. Tatu took the mask, signed MASK again, and then proceeded into the Night Enclosure Area for lunch.” 

From Lindsay:
“Some of my favorite moments I have shared with Tatu involve masks. Frequently she will ask me to put on a mask before she will answer any of my signed questions – I try as often as I can to oblige. While I was serving lunch one afternoon Tatu asked me for a mask that was sitting on a table behind me. I gave her the mask and she set it facing upwards on the ground in front of her. After observing it for a while Tatu began to jump up and down in front of the mask, “scaring” it with a “hoot” face. She leaned in close with her face pressed against the mask and jumped up and down some more. After she had scared the mask she grabbed it and placed it snugly against her body, hugging it to her chest. Later that day, I saw Tatu with the same mask around her upper arm as she went about her day. Once she had scared the mask it made for a great companion!”

From Kate:
I’m pretty sure while I was on berm today I saw Tatu interact with
the mask you gave her. Was it a sort of clear one like the others? I
remember that it had black lipstick. It looked new, and she was
treating it with great care, so I’m sure that’s it.

came up and sat on the ledge by the fence very near the berm chair, and
set the mask down in front of her, face up. She sort of pushed it
around a little while, moving it by putting her finger in the eye hole
and then just sort of arranging it in front of her. Then she touched
the lips on the mask, after that touching her own lips. A little while
after this, she bent over and kissed it, very gently, on the lips. She
hardly took her eyes off of it the whole time I was watching.”From Lisa:

I was in the observation area working on some project when Tatu entered the West Playroom from outside. She saw me sitting by the windows and immediately signed MASK THERE pointing in my direction. I picked up one of the three mask options available which was one of the clear masks with the black lipstick and put it on. Tatu, instead of being satisfied with this choice, signed HURT while looking at me. I was confused for a minute until I realized that one of the other masks on the window ledge was clear but had what appeared to be fake injuries on it. I pointed to that mask and asked Tatu, HURT MASK THERE? Tatu, replied HURT THERE. So I switched the masks out and we played a quick game in the observation area with the ‘hurt mask’.”

Below one of the undergraduate volunteers, Ana O., models the ‘hurt mask.’ 

dscf5689.jpgTatu hanging out in the West playroom with her black lipstick mask. 



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