Chimp Stories

Getting to Know Tabu

Jordan Garbarino
Jordan Garbarino May 21, 2020
Tabu Chimp

As new chimpanzees arrive at the sanctuary, staff gets to know them while they spend time in our McGrath Welcoming Center settling it. It’s one of my absolute favorite parts of my job. Learning the personalities, likes, and dislikes of our new arrivals and beginning to form relationships with them is so rewarding.

Today I want to share with you the story of getting to know Tabu.

Tabu arrived at the sanctuary in December of 2019 alongside groupmates Kuhta and Wotoni. Tabu immediately caught my attention because of his striking eyes. Initially he seemed more reserved than his groupmates and not too interested in playing with caregivers. Hey – to each their own! However, I thought there might be more than meets the eye with Tabu and made it my mission to see if he might let me break through his tough guy appearance.

One of my tasks as a behavior technician is doing behavioral observations on our chimpanzees. Because we try to gather information on all of our new retirees, I was soon assigned Tabu’s group to observe.

After a few observations, I would try to engage with Tabu briefly – sometimes with no success. Every so often, though, he would return my stomps with a subtle stomp of his own. Or a verrrry small head bob.

This continued for a while, but over time, the little stomps and bobs back became more consistent. Then they became big stomps and bobs.

Finally, one day, Tabu stomped his way over to me we had the best play session. I was even able to grab a long handled spoon and tickle him! He let me groom him (even his tummy) and we bounced, bobbed, and stomped all over. We have been like that ever since.

These days, our interactions with the chimpanzees are limited as we take extra steps to keep them safe and healthy in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. I haven’t gotten as much up-close time with Tabu as I’d like recently, but I’m optimistic that we’ll pick up right where we left off as soon as we are able.

Jordan Garbarino
Jordan Garbarino
Positive Reinforcement Training Program Supervisor