Tag along with Chimp Haven’s Attending Veterinarian, Dr. J, as she describes her daily chimpanzee observation process.
Each day I pull alongside my office building I am met by a familiar dark face with his lip flipped upward revealing four missing teeth. It’s Henry with his morning smile. As I make my way closer I am met with the sound of a kiss. Each day I greet him and express my matched love and appreciation by blowing kisses back to him: Muah!
After changing out of my clothes and into my scrubs, I put on my personal protective equipment (PPE) with a juice bottle in tow ready to begin my chimpanzee observations. The veterinary team performs these observations daily to look for wounds or any other signs of sickness in our chimps.
I walk through the doors and am met by three chimpanzees who are usually resting in their beautifully made nests. A quick visual observation of the trio and a squirt of juice for Coco Bean and I enter the wing and head to the left. I like to start there because I have to make good on my promise to Mr. Henry to come and visit with him.
Before I can make it to Henry’s group I’m met by Kasey’s group of 18 chimps. I am usually met by Kerstin who I call “Kooky Kerstin” because she is very playful and makes a distinct vocalization whenever she sees me. She also usually demands my attention and play as I work to check over all the other members of her group. A low-ranking female named Halley usually gains eye contact with me then moves herself away from the others to get her squirt of juice.
Just across the hall alas I am met with Donovan’s group, where Henry lives. This group – Henry, Juan, Twyla, Quinta, Wendy, and Midge – loves to interact with people and are usually the first to greet me begging for their serving of juice.
I venture outdoors to lay eyes on Barbara. She can be a grumpy little lady not desiring to be bothered. The chimpanzees definitely run the show at Chimp Haven, so I quickly leave her to rest not wanting to disturb!
I head back through the doors from which I came and quickly am on the lookout for TJ and Hawkins. They are two boys in Spock’s group well known for throwing poop when things don’t quite go their way. I’ve learned I can usually make it through without the need for a shower if I quickly greet them and offer them a morning treat. This group is tricky because their alpha male, Spock, is quite demanding and doesn’t allow the lower ranking group mates to get too much attention.
Next up for vet evaluation is Hamlet’s group. I make a point to find Jacob, who is typically outdoors in the habitat, because he is getting up there in age at 60 years old. My habitat exploration is usually interrupted by “Ms. Wiggle tongue” herself (also known as Kaya) and “Ms. Smarty Pants” (aka Maxi), who are doing everything they can to get my attention for morning juice.
The “Golden Oldies” are next on my list. This group is one of my favorites because they are strongly bonded, look out for one another, and have gained the wisdom that comes along with aging.
I continue my rounds with observations of Flora’s group. You have to be pretty quick as they always seem to be in motion! I avoid a few demanding spits to the face shield from Diane and ensure everyone remains in good condition, even growing baby Carlee.
Last on the list are Keeli’s and Jordon’s groups. Whenever Keeli isn’t throwing a fist full of dirt my way I enjoy evaluating his group because they are one of the most intelligent groups we have, continuously shocking me with how bright they really are. Finally, I close out rounds with Jordon’s group and, like clockwork, they come over one by one and quickly continue on with their morning activities amongst one another.
If any medications are needed an email is sent to the veterinary technicians and medical records updated. Being a veterinarian for more than 300 chimpanzees can be a lot of work, but the absolute best part of my day is having the opportunity to just watch the chimpanzees living out the chimp life.
These observations aid in building the bonds and relationships needed to provide veterinary care to our many unique chimpanzee personalities. Our treatment protocols are tailored to each individual and allow us to provide top notch care for each chimpanzee resident.