Photo: Project Chimps

#ChimpChat: Samira and Janie

Today’s #ChimpChat is all about 13-year old Samira, according to her friend and caregiver, Janie. Samira is quite possibly the easiest chimp to identify at the Project Chimps sanctuary. She has piercing amber eyes and unique black facial markings that form a V on her face. In three words, Janie describes her as “tender, tremendous, and tantalizing”. “Samira has the most beautiful, shiny face,” Janie said, “She also has long beautiful fingernails that she uses to gently touch the back of my wrist when we greet each other. Sometimes when I take my hand away she still leaves hers there as if to say she’s not done saying hi, so I always put mine back until she’s ready to let go”. On top of her beautiful physical appearance, her personality is also very intriguing. “Samira can be a hard nut to crack,” Janie said, “She doesn’t show her emotions as animatedly as some of the other females. However, once she’s gained your admiration and trust, she’s forever loyal and appreciative”. Samira arrived at the sanctuary timid and insecure. “Samira seemed a little withdrawn when I first met her,” Janie said, “Sometimes she’s deeply concentrating on something in her own world, and is a little shy when it comes to new people. She’s very observant of her environment, and picks her moments to interact carefully”. Samira, who also goes by the nickname Sammy, is emotionally intelligent and sensitive, something that is obvious to anyone who meets her. “She is very chosen in her interactions with caregivers, and my affection for her snuck up on me. She is a loving, and deeply sincere individual,” Janie explained.

Samira is comfortably mid-ranking in her family group of eight other female chimpanzees. “She has her friends who will give her support if something is happening, but she also doesn’t start trouble with others. Jennifer is definitely a close friend of hers who often supports her emotionally,” Janie explained. Though Sammy can be serious, she also loves to play. “The first time she wanted to play chase with me I felt so honored,” Janie said. “We had hung out together for a little bit before, but one day she was ready to unlock her shell. She’s a little unconventional when she initiates her game of chase,” Janie explained. Usually, a chimp will initiate a game of chase with a caregiver after they’ve already been playing for a little bit. “Samira on the other hand,” Janie said, “Simply makes eye contact with me and bursts away, looking back to see if I’m following her”. When chimps are stimulated, for example when they’re about to display, their body hair will stick up straight, giving them a more physically intimidating appearance. This effect is called piloerection. “I call Samira ‘pilo player’ because she sometimes becomes piloerect when we’re playing together,” Janie said. “She’s an incredibly elaborate player. Her round physique stomps and jiggles as she (very impressively) brachiates, jumps, and swings herself from one end of the room to the other. She loves to play tag before she explodes into the other room while laughing. She even hilariously flips herself upside down, basically doing the splits by hanging on two different bars, and wiggles her arms over her head and body while she’s laughing. If she’s having a really good time, you get to witness her take a quick break, laugh with a big play face, balance herself on one heel, and spin around over and over,” Janie explained. “I cherish the moments when she’s ready to rumble,” Janie said, “But I also feel like she enjoys our special moments together when I just whisper and talk to her. I always tell her how beautiful she is and that I love her very much”.

One of her special quirks is her love for cardboard boxes. “Samira absolutely loves boxes,” Janie said, “She often eats lunch in them, or simply hangs out and waits for a game of wrestle with one her group members. She’s also fond of sitting on top of things when she’s eating. If she’s not hanging out with her friends Latricia and Emma during dinner, she’s sitting on a large plastic bench or even on a hard hat. She’s a silly lady”. Janie explains why her connection to Samira is so important to her: “What many people don’t understand is that chimps are just like many of us when it comes to choosing how and who we let into our life. I too can be reserved when it comes to devoting my emotions to friends, and I like that she feels the same way too. I’m honored I’ve met a lifelong friend in Samira”.