Photo: Suzi Eszterhas

#ChimpChat: Janie and Gertrude

It’s time for another #ChimpChat Wednesday! Today, Caregiver Janie explains the unique connection she has with female chimpanzee Gertrude. “Gertrude and I literally fell in love at first sight,” Janie explained. “She intensely held out her hand from across the room and asked for my attention. She quickly ran over to me, looked very deeply and lovingly into my eyes. We haven’t stopped adoring each other since.” Janie elaborates on their intense connection: “I’ve never had such an emotional and warm introduction to a chimpanzee friend before. She’s incredibly unique in her affection. She’s very fond of vehement eye contact. When I see my reflection in her eyes, my worldview changes, and I remember why I get up every morning.” According to Janie, Gertrude is alluring, affectionate, and assured. She is also higher ranking in the group of nine females. As a higher ranking female, “She’s skilled in breaking up squabbles, and isn’t afraid to stand her ground.” Janie says. “Like many high-ranking chimpanzees, she can be a little demanding when it comes for her turn to eat. She often prefers for me to serve her in a particular spot, and then dashes away to eat in the same location every time. She’s very particular and I love that about her. It makes my day knowing I can make her happy, just as she wants.” Janie explained that Gertrude especially loves to nap and lounge in hammocks. Her favorite foods are cantaloupe and watermelon, which she asks for with a raspy food grunt. Gertrude enjoys interacting with her caregivers. “What really makes my heart melt is her smile,” Janie said. “When a chimpanzee is laughing and smiling, they don’t make the same facial expression as humans do. You know a chimpanzee is happy when they drop their lower jaw and show their bottom teeth. Gertrude has an incredibly unique trait of being able to curl the corners of her mouth with her lips closed, just like humans smile. This is something that’s supposed to be physically impossible for chimpanzees”. Gertrude is a big fan of enrichment, whether it’s a novel food item or a new toy. “She’s very skilled at grabbing as much enrichment as she can. Often it’s too much for her to keep track of, and the other females get a chance to forage after Gertrude has come through. The caregivers are always sure to make extra enrichment because we know how excited she gets,” Janie explained. Project Chimps depends on donors for support, from daily operations to chimp care. “We rely so much on our donors and we can’t extend our gratitude enough,” Janie said. “I’m so touched by people’s generosity and kind hearts.”