Confessions of a Chimpanzee Caregiver…

DSCF0514.JPGBack in May, I started training in Chimp Care, meaning I begin training to interact with the chimpanzees I’d been getting to know from
afar for eight months. Before I got to interact with them myself, I was
required, as everyone in the training is, to observe three meals,
following along with my trainer. From the first moment I went in,
Loulis and Tatu wanted to interact, and it was hard to see them so eager
and tell them I couldn’t. Dar, meanwhile, politely ignored me, which
is pretty much what I expected knowing his reputation for shyness. I’d
heard that he took a long time to get used to new people. I was just
grateful nobody hated me!

On the day when I was finally permitted
to interact, I watched Lisa serve a breakfast. Of course Tatu had no
interest in interacting with me, and Loulis wanted to play but wouldn’t
come down from the tunnel. Then Dar put his lips through the fencing to kiss
Lisa. Lisa squatted down, and I did so next to her, and she put her
wrist up for kisses from Dar. Once he was done, she asked him if he
wanted to kiss me. Dar averted his eyes. I said, “He’s not going to
want to.” As soon as I said this, however, Dar scooted closer to me,
looked at me, and put his lips through the fencing for a kiss. I looked
at Lisa and she nodded that it was okay, and I breathlessly held up my
wrist for my first ever contact with a chimpanzee. Dar gave me gentle
kisses, then held up his hand to tickle. I let him tickle my wrist for a
bit, then pulled back. Dar pulled his hand back and signed FRIEND. My
heart seemed to swell to six times its size, and it was all I could do
to keep from crying. I’ve since had many more interactions
with all of them, each as unique and special as the chimpanzee it was with,
but I will always remember my first chimpanzee kiss from shy Dar.

Kate and Dar peekaboo.JPGKate Dar smooch.JPGKate Dar Kiss.JPG

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