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Positive Reinforcement Training

Primatology Q&A with Behavior Coordinator Leilani

Chimp Haven
Chimp Haven April 9, 2020

Are you interested in working with primates when you grow up? Chimp Haven’s Behavior Coordinator, Leilani, is answering 11 questions about working with chimps!

Behavior Coordinator Leilani has worked with animals for more than 13 years

When did you first know you wanted to work with animals?
When I was about 5 years old, I would try to take care of the animals in my yard, like frogs. Then when I was 9 I did a trainer project with my best friend to teach my dogs tricks. I have been working on this goal since then!

What is your job?
My title is Behavior Coordinator. This means I help people who give the chimps enrichment (like toys) and watch the chimps go about their day.

What is a primatologist?
Someone who studies and knows a lot about primates.

What is a regular day?
Normally, I meet with my team and we work together to make enrichment and watch the chimps. I also buy things for the chimps that they need or want. Finally, I usually do data so we can understand what the chimps are doing and why. Since they cannot tell us how they feel, this is one way to understand.

What is your favorite thing about your job?
Helping chimps. I love meeting new chimps and getting to see all my chimp friends.

How do you talk to the chimps?
I mimic their noises, like pants and bounce up and down to say hi. Most of the time I want them to be friends with other chimps.

Can you be friends with the chimps?
Oh yes! My best chimp friend at Chimp Haven is Gisoki. He is so sweet, smart and fun. I have had a lot chimp friends over the years and all of them are special to me.

Do the chimps trust you?
Yes, most of them have been raised around humans and are friendly and trustful of them, including me. Some chimps take a while to warm up though.

Do the chimps have names?
Of course. All of the chimps have names though most of them were not born here so they came here with their names.

What is something humans can learn from chimps?
People can learn a lot from chimps. The most surprising thing about chimps is how resilient (like being tough) they are and still want to make new friends, see new areas and try different foods.

Do you have any advice for kids who want to grow up and be primatologists?
Yes, my advice is to learn what you can about lots of animals and find the way to be an advocate for animals. Remember that this does not necessarily mean you have to be a veterinarian.

Chimp Haven
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