Photo: Project Chimps

#ChimpChat: Genesis and Michael

For today’s #ChimpChat, we’re getting to know female chimpanzee Genesis, with the help of her friend and caregiver, Michael. When asked to describe Genesis in three words, Michael chose special, persistent, and talented. “I wanted to talk about Genesis because she tends to be a bit reserved,” Michael explained. “Not reserved in a bad way, but reserved in a way where she’d rather hang out with her fellow chimps than interact with her caregivers for too long at the mesh.” Thankfully, as she has spent more time at the Project Chimps sanctuary, she has become more trusting and playful. ”Once Genesis starts to trust you, her barrier comes down,” Michael said. “She can be very sweet, super playful, and has an amazing food-motivated personality.” Speaking of food, “Genesis loves food probably more than anything else in the world,” Michael explained. “Genesis really seems to enjoy foraging for all the nuts and other food donations we receive through our Amazon Wish List. Any time we scatter nuts, cereal, and other food items for their forage, Genesis reveals her excitement by letting out a modified food grunt that’s similar to a scream of excitement with low pants and grunts in between,” Michael explained. For at least one meal a day, the chimps receive a forage meal, meaning that caregivers chop up veggies, fruit, leafy greens, etc. into small pieces which are then scattered all over their enclosure. Not only do the chimps enjoy searching for their food in this innovative way, but it also mirrors how wild chimps forage for their food in their natural habitat.

Though Genesis may be a low to mid ranking chimp, she has earned the respect and love of her fellow female chimps. “Genesis appears to be completely removed from the chimp drama,” Michael explained. “Unlike most lower ranking chimps, no one messes with Genesis.” Michael describes why Genesis seems untouchable: “Genesis can defend herself with very little to no defensive support from others, and she leaves the politics to the governing chimps of the group, like alpha female Latricia”. Comically, Michael added, “It seems that the less involved she is in the drama, the more she gets to eat”. Though she’s not as interactive or gregarious as other chimps in her group, Genesis and Michael have had their fair share of bonding time. “I recently had a very special bonding moment with Genesis,” Michael explained. “I went up to the villa [where Genesis’s group lives] to paint with the chimps. I expected some of the more outgoing chimps like Buttercup, Charisse, or even Emma to be front and center, eager to paint. While I wasn’t totally wrong – all three of them were up at the mesh – no one wanted to try to paint. Thankfully, Genesis caught eye of what I was doing and immediately wanted to be involved. She pushed her way through the other chimps and started putting paint on the canvas. This was a special moment for Genesis and I because once the other chimps realized what we were doing, they all quickly cleared out and Genesis and I were able to hangout and paint alone together for about half an hour. I really treasure that time spent with her.”

With all of her quirks and fascinating qualities, Genesis has really made a home for herself at Project Chimps. The timid, reserved chimp who first arrived at the sanctuary in September 2016 has evolved into a much more outgoing and daring individual. She has emerged from her shell and is not afraid to communicate her wants and needs with her caregivers, like Michael. Everyone at Project Chimps feels so grateful to know and work alongside Genesis, and we look forward to many more years by her side.