Treasure Your Friendships.


Written by: Glee Larsen

I began my chimpcare training in the summer of 2010, and so have been interacting directly with Tatu, Dar, and Loulis for over two years now. I feel that our friendship has grown tremendously over the past year in particular. When I went back home for a break during the summer of 2012, this was the first time I really felt like I was leaving friends in Ellensburg. But these were not friends who I could simply call, text, or message online when I wanted to have a chat with them.

As summer wore on I missed the chimpanzees more and more, but I also became anxious, wondering what their reactions would be when I saw them again. Would they be upset that I had been gone for three months? Would they be excited to see me? Or would they be indifferent, being used to this sort of break after so many years of seeing caregivers come and go?

When I came back in late September and went in to greet them, we had a very pleasant reunion. I was greeted with the usual kiss on the wrist from Dar and an invitation to play chase, an excited Loulis (who also gave me a kiss) ready to play lots of shoe tickle, and an engaging Tatu, who wanted to sign with me about pictures on my cell phone.

The photos here are of a nice play session consisting of chase and tickle games that I had with Loulis some time after my return from summer break. I will always cherish these memories with my friends, and if Dar’s passing has taught me anything, it is never to forget this. I have also learned to remember that the chimpanzees cherish these moments as well and so it is important to make them meaningful and plentiful while we are here together at CHCI.

Loulis tickles Glee’s wrist

Loulis and Glee

This entry was posted in CHCI Experiences, Dar, Interns, Loulis, Sanctuary, Sign Language, Tatu. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Treasure Your Friendships.

  1. Lynn Jenkinson says:

    Do you ever have the chance to be in the enclosure with them? Are they always separated from humans by cage walls?

    • CHCI Staff says:

      No, we never enter an enclosure with the chimpanzees and we have very strict protocols that we never cross the fencing boundary, even with fingers. There are two very important reasons for this. One is safety. Chimpanzees are considerably stronger and more durable than we are. Humans are pretty fragile by comparison. What is play for them could badly injure a human. We make lousy playmates. And as you are probably well aware, when a human gets hurt, even if it is the human’s fault, it is the animal that pays. So for their safety as well as ours, we do not “go in with” the chimpanzees.

      The second reason is respect for their social needs and culture. Where we can, we try not to intrude on their relationships with each other. Our hope is that they can maintain more natural chimpanzee relationships without having to accommodate human influence. They can play and fight and reassure each other as they see fit. We have heard some comments that they need physical contact from us, but the truth is they are adults, not children. Their needs have grown up. As Roger puts it, you don’t see grown children sitting in their parents’ laps.

      Washoe and her family taught all of us a great deal about chimpanzees over the years, particularly about how wrong it is to imprison them. Humans know now that chimpanzees should not be in captivity. But Washoe’s family is here, so we do the best we can to provide them with a safe and caring environment that allows them to be as true to their nature as possible.

  2. Amy Allen says:

    Well said!!!

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