As some of you may know from earlier blogs we are still struggling with enclosure space for our chimps at Tacugama. Fortunately we have almost raised enough funds now to start constructing new enclosure space but this will take several months to complete. In the meantime our juvenile chimps are in non-forested enclosures that we enrich with ropes and platforms to enable them to develop the aerial skills they would normally acquire growing up in the wild and to have some fun.
However, the natural intelligent curiosity and strength of chimpanzees takes its toll on our enclosures! We are regularly repairing lots of minor damage – mostly broken beams and poles – and trying to stay ahead of their inquisitive ventures. You can watch here an older video of Jerry demonstrating how this happens (although she didn’t quite manage it this time)!
A couple of weeks ago we spotted that Joko, the alpha male of the juveniles, had cracked one of the support beam for this raised platform and was focussing his considerable strength on shaking the beam back and forth. Spotting what he was up to, the younger chimps were all too keen to help him finish the job! It was about an hour before his group was due to go into the dens for the night but it was clear the platform wouldn’t last and a minor repair would become a major task. A temporary distraction was needed to save the day and fortunately we had a football that some recent visitors had donated. We threw it into the enclosure and this is what followed:
All the other chimps were very unimpressed at this as an electric fence now stood between them and the ball! Kouze, one of our more innovative chimps, quickly took on ball recovery duties. His first approach, though unsuccessful, was to pole vault over the fence to get it, standing on the top of a stick to test if he had enough height to clear the fence.
Failing that, and after some deliberation, he switched to another tactic of using his stick to fish the ball out from under the fence. As the video below shows, this worked much better, but Joko was watching his progress…
Kouze’s determined efforts were quickly taken advantage of by the alpha male and although the ball didn’t last long once Joko got it, at least the platform lasted until the next day when the broken pole could be replaced. The videos clearly show the amazing capability of chimpanzees to assess and analyse problems and use and adapt tools to solve challenges (and that the alpha male is in charge!).