Our adult male chimps, Jonah and Jacob, are the epitome of physical strength and assertiveness. These former actors make sure to show all our visitors and volunteers how tough they are by “displaying.” A dominant chimpanzee display typically starts with the chimp standing up and swaying back and forth. Their hair becomes pilo erect (when their hair bristles and looks more puffed-up). Then the macho male will typically shove enrichment objects around their habitat, push their toys and large items around to make noise, bang on the mesh of the enclosure, all to show how big, tough, and loud they can be. The purposes of these actions are to appear larger in size to intimidate their inferiors, which Jonah and Jacob achieve with ease. To watch them is truly remarkable- they are so strong and impressive.
But…..recently these “tough guys” showed their more vulnerable and sensitive side. So what can intimidate a big, strong chimp? Apparently, grass can! When we decided to spread grass seed inside the outdoor habitats, the grass flourished and looked just lovely. But, Jonah and Jacob were scared to step on the new green grass that covered the floor of their habitat. One of our caregivers snapped the picture below of Jonah thinking about whether or not to place his feet on the lush green grass.
“Go ahead…just step on it, Jonah…just put your feet down, you can do it” the caregiver encouraged. So what did Jonah do? He raised his foot and tapped his ankle down to touch the grass then immediately raised it back up and decided it was safer on the sidelines. It is hard to imagine, and quite sad when you think about it, that a chimpanzee would be afraid of something as natural and ordinary as grass. Happily, after the first week, Jonah and Jacob faced their fear and now play and run on the grass. What brave chimps!