There have been quite a few changes here at the Sanctuary, from opening a new chimp house to the chimps growing up and impressing us daily with their intelligence. In this week’s post, I have invited Nicole Sharpe, a Doctoral Candidate at the University of California Davis who visits with us each year carrying out behavioural research on the chimps, to tell us an interesting story of change she witnessed. I hope you enjoy our guest blog post.
Victoria, or Vicki as I fondly call her, has gotten quite smart in the last year since I was here. She has always been a very submissive chimp, willing to give up her food to pretty much anyone. Even Ajabu, one of the youngest chimps, can take bananas from her! Often, the caregivers have to peel bananas for Vicki and stuff them directly into her mouth to make sure she gets her fair share. Sometimes the caregivers even have to separate her from the group during feeding time to make sure she eats, which is not always feasible as she likes to be with Alley, her foster-mother.
Last year when i was around i noticed she’d often have large portions of her lunch stolen by Oscar, the alpha male. Vicki is so submissive that she wouldn’t even take food if Oscar was looking at her, and if he so much as stepped towards her she would run off screaming. Just last week though, I saw Oscar do exactly this when Vicki was thrown her bananas at lunch: he stood up and took a swaggering step towards her. Vicki glanced at him and didn’t move, so Oscar moved towards her a bit more. She ran off then, but as she was running she pulled one banana off of the bunch of four that she was holding and placed it behind her, right in Oscar’s path. Oscar was distracted by the banana that Vicki left on the ground and she therefore managed to keep the rest of her lunch. I was very proud.