Written by: Miranda Cave, Chimpanzee Caregiver
Just like people, chimpanzees can be very picky about which foods they like and which ones they don’t. Some of them also have certain foods that are their favorites or particular ways that they prefer to eat certain foods. Some of the chimps are discrete when they refuse certain foods. They usually politely accept the food but then slowly, “secretly” set the food on the ground next to them (as if we can’t see them). Others are not as polite in their refusal, usually by completely ignoring the caregiver until they are offered a food that they like better.
Below are just a few examples of some of our retirees who have special preferences when it comes to their food:
Barry is one of the few chimps who gets more excited about his vegetables than his fruit. Most of the time, we start the chimps’ breakfast with their vegetables and then put their fruit out last. Barry’s troop mates tend to wait to eat until we put out the “good stuff” (the fruit), but not Barry! He digs right in as soon as the kale is put down in front of him!
Latoya is funny in the way that she prefers to eat cucumbers. She does NOT like to eat the peel of the cucumber, so she tears into the slices so that she can eat only the insides, letting the peel fall to the ground every time. Most of the chimps just eat the slices whole, rather than pick around the edges. Latoya is also a big fan of broccoli!
Each morning as a part of her positive reinforcement training, Tessa gets small pieces of fruit as rewards for participating in the training session. I will never forget the day that I found out that Tessa does NOT like figs. The session started like any other, but when I gave her the first fig piece, she took it excitedly, only to start chewing slower and slower until she spit it out. I thought maybe it was a bad piece, so I offered her another piece but she closed her lips up tight and didn’t offer me her hand to take anymore. We did find out that she LOVES oranges, so now she gets oranges slices as rewards instead! No more of those nasty figs for Tessa!
Hulk’s absolute favorite food is APPLES! During his positive reinforcement training sessions, he’ll only participate if his trainer brings him apples or applesauce. Every year on his birthday, care staff brings him apple slices, if they aren’t already in his morning meal, to make sure he starts his special day off right!
Maggie likes to savor her food more than other chimps, most specifically her banana. Most of the chimps get SO EXCITED for their banana that they eat half of it in the first bite. Maggie, on the other hand, likes to find a quiet spot and slowly peel her banana. She usually drops the peel and eats the banana in small bites. Unfortunately Maggie’s group mates can be pretty rowdy, so she doesn’t always get the peace and quiet that she prefers. If they all had to sit down at a dinner table to eat, Maggie would be the one that everyone else would be waiting on to finish her food so they could be excused.