At CHCI we believe in daily routines. Keeping some consistency in the daily schedule lets the chimpanzees know what’s coming up next, and what their options are. This allows the chimpanzees to make choices about how the day progresses, choices that have real influence in the daily activities.
It’s the start of the day—Tatu can hand back the blankets and get breakfast underway, or she can sleep in for just a few more minutes.
It’s lunch time—Loulis can head in for a meal or stay out and enjoy the sun.
Research in humans in hospitals, nursing homes, and similar institutions has shown that creating environments that encourage choices leads to better health, increased well-being, and other improvements.
Routine and predictability are a foundation for healthy lives and relationships. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t shake things up a bit to make life interesting!
Their Daily Routine
Caregivers arrive at 8am, say good morning to the chimpanzees, who are in their night enclosures, and start breakfast prep. Breakfast starts, like every meal with crackers (monkey chow). The chimpanzees are free to have some or to pass. The next course is a bowl of fruit or a fruit smoothie. After breakfast they usually get some more fruit as either forage or food puzzle, or served to the hand.
At 9am they go out into their 3 large play rooms (two indoor and one outdoor) where caregivers put out one or two laundry baskets of various enrichment items. This enrichment always contains sheets and clothing for nesting, magazines and laminated pictures for browsing, and various other toys, bags, containers, shoes, etc., for them to play with. Right after the chimpanzees go out caregivers clean their night enclosures.
At noon, the chimpanzees are invited in for lunch, they can choose to come in for lunch or stay out. Lunch generally is a protein-based meal consisting of a bean and vegetable soup. The chimpanzees are offered crackers first. After crackers they are offered the bean/vegetable soup. “Dessert” is usually a raw vegetable or two; carrots, onions, leeks, tomato, and cucumber are some favorites. After lunch is finished the chimpanzees go out to their 3 large playrooms again.
Between breakfast and lunch and between lunch and dinner, they are often offered a healthy snack: dried fruit, nuts, tea, whatever we have in the cupboards. Because they use the signs of ASL, they can request what snack they would like. This snack is often given in a food puzzle to help keep them mentally and physically stimulated. Also between meals, interns spend a lot of time interacting and playing with the chimpanzees. There are many games of chase and tickle, there is plenty quiet grooming time, and there are abundant conversations.
At 3:30 (4:30 in the summer), the chimpanzees are invited in for dinner, again, they can choose to come in for dinner or stay out. Dinner can be just about anything. Common dinners include rice (brown or white), farina, pasta, and oatmeal served with fruits or vegetables. While these are the go-to meals, there is a lot of room to be creative at dinner. Sometimes we do a huge fruit and veggie forage, or a fruit pizza, or sandwiches, or whatever healthy meal an intern comes up with. After dinner the chimpanzees are given their blankets and it is time for bed, and the day starts all over again in the morning.
This is the hard part. While having a predictable routine, we still need to keep life interesting. Smoothies and fruit bowls, while given every morning, are always made of different ingredients. Same with the soup. Dinner is a great opportunity to be creative and mix it up.
Everyday we try to have a different enrichment them (i.e. sports day – where we put out sport related enrichment, art day where we put out art supplies, fort day where we build forts out of sheets, etc.) to make sure they are not getting the same things everyday. Food puzzles and forages are another great way to break up their days. Visit our website for more information on the types of enrichment we do here at CHCI http://www.friendsofwashoe.org/learn/enrichment/
What about the research?
Research is not a part of the chimpanzees’ daily routine. In fact, research that involves their participation is rare, non-invasive, and completely voluntary. If you have a research question and you need the chimpanzees to answer questions or interact with you, you better make it interesting for them, or you will never get your answers. If at any time a study causes them ANY distress, that study is terminated. For example, one research question investigated what nesting materials the chimpanzees preferred. To answer this question they were given different materials on different days. Some days did not include blankets. On those days Dar would ask for blankets and remind us he was a GOOD BOY. He obviously felt he was being deprived, so the study was stopped, and they returned to getting blankets every night.
Most research is purely observational and even live observation isn’t the norm. Most data comes from archival videotapes. Any research CHCI conducts is for the benefit of these chimpanzees or all captive chimpanzees.
Everyday we must enrich the chimpanzee’s lives; we meet that challenge head on. Everyday interns and caregivers are making, formulating, or implementing enrichment. Everyday interns are trying to fill the chimpanzee’s days with meaningful social interactions. Everyday the chimpanzees’ friends are here for them.