Today’s #ChimpChat is all about 15-year old, male chimpanzee Patrick, who is described as cautious, expressive, and chimp-oriented. This week caregiver Joel discusses his relationship with Patrick and how his personality has evolved since his arrival at the sanctuary last November. “In my opinion, Patrick’s personality has progressed the most out of all the males in his family group,” Joel explained. “My first impression of Patrick was that he was withdrawn and showed some restraint when dealing with his caregivers. However, nowadays he is super outgoing and playful, which still catches me off guard sometimes,” Joel said. “For example, when I was training new staff on interactions he became super playful and wanted not only to play with me but also took time and care to interact with the new staff member,” Joel explained. Joel chose to talk about Patrick for this week’s #ChimpChat because “Patrick can be hard to read sometimes. It’s a relationship where both he and I are taking our time to get to know each other and understand how the other works. It’s a relationship built over time that I hope will be filled with trust, confidence, and silliness when appropriate”. In terms of interacting with his caregivers, “I believe he is growing more open to the idea of interactions more and more,” Joel said. “At first, he definitely restrained himself when we would initiate an interaction, but now he is confident enough to be silly whenever he feels comfortable with a person,” Joel explained. For example, “Usually I find him carrying around a small toy hammer, which he offers me sometimes. But as soon as I go to touch it, he pulls it away and runs off. Thus begins a good game of chase,” Joel explained.
As the Project Chimps sanctuary continues to grow, Joel has been thinking a lot about caregiver and chimpanzee relationships. “We always talk about a specific special moment in our ChimpChats, but really it’s not just one moment that makes a relationship,” Joel explained. “It’s slow, continuous positive interactions that build the chimpanzees’ trust and connection with their human caregivers. These relationships, just like any other, are special and are to be nurtured and cared for throughout our time with them. However, they are fragile and complicated”. Joel continues, “When it comes to the point of relationships with the chimps, sometimes we need to make the conscious decision to step back and allow for them to make stronger connections to each other than to us. The longing we have to be as connected to them as possible should never overshadow the feelings that they feel toward each other”.