Monday, March 2, 2009

Hands…Big hands and little hands

By Kathleen Asselin - Fauna Volunteer


Staff and volunteers at Fauna often witness special moments with the primates that can range from endearing to down right hilarious.

Sue Ellen’s eyesight is deteriorating which is a sad thing, but she manages just fine. Like most of the chimps she has her preferences when it comes to food. We serve up what we call nighttime packages on the food trolleys with the evening meals. These packages are paper bags containing monkey chow and a mix of different nuts and dried fruits. When Sue Ellen grabs a nighttime package off the trolley she holds the bag in one hand and digs the contents out with the other hand. Then she puts the hand with the goodies right up to one of her eyes and manipulates her fingers in order to let go and drop all of the things she doesn’t like (actually she lets go of pretty much everything except for the peanuts which she loves). Her dexterity is really impressive!

Binky enjoys looking through magazines. Last week he was particularly impressed when he got a Victoria’s Secret catalogue in his enrichment. He carried the catalogue around with him for a few days and would sit contentedly flipping each page and enjoying the pictures. It’s hard to believe that a chimp with such big strong hands can be so gentle. He was very careful not to tear any of the pages and kept his catalogue clean and in good condition.

Pepper has the most beautiful, elegant hands. Her hand movements are usually delicate and graceful. During the summer she enjoys getting water bottles that have been frozen so that she can suck on the ice. Sometimes on a hot day when she is out on the upstairs gallery she will extend one of her graceful, elegant hands through the caging when we walk by…her way of asking for an ice bottle. She is very patient and will wait with her hand extended while we go get a bottle for her. When we toss it up to her she is a really good catcher. One of our volunteers Kathleen is a really lousy shot (she’s not embarrassed to admit it) and it will often take Kathleen a few tries before she throws the bottle properly so that Pepper can catch it. Pepper is usually amused by this and when she finally manages to catch one of Kathleen’s wild shots she will laugh. It always makes Kathleen’s day to see Pepper laugh like this.

Tom uses his hands to get our attention. Tom is a clapper. You can always tell when Tommy wants something because you hear his big, loud claps echoing through the chimp house. If you have a copy of the Fauna 2009 calendar you can see the size of one of Tom’s hands in the picture for the month of June. So you can probably imagine how loud two hands of that size can clap! If you go over and see him when he’s clapping and ask him if he wants something he’ll look deep into your soul with his beautiful brown eyes and nod his head enthusiastically as if to say “of course I want something – what are you deaf?”

TomSue EllenBinky
Over at the monkey house we have Newton, a very sweet rhesus macaque. One day Newton received one of those little individual servings of honey in his enrichment package. The little piece of foil had been pierced and honey had come out and gotten on one of his hands. Newton realized he had something sticky on one of his hands but didn’t know what it was. He shook his hand wildly to try to get it off, but of course it wouldn’t come off that way. When his sticky hand accidentally brushed the side of his body he ended up with hairs stuck in the honey on his hand. Again he tried to shake his hand so that it would come off, but the honey and the hairs stayed stuck. Getting desperate he tried to rub the sticky stuff off on the floor of his cage which was covered with straw…but of course all that happened was that he got straw stuck to his hand! Getting frantic he tried to rub his hands together to get it off, while caretaker Joanie got a bowl of water for him so that he could wash it off. When she held the bowl of water up to him and said “Newton put your hand in the water” he immediately came and plunged his clean hand in the water and continued to violently shake his sticky hand around in the air. Finally he ended up wiping his sticky hand off on the caging and happily drank the bowl of water that Joanie offered him. When Joanie told us this story we couldn’t help but to laugh – too bad we didn’t have a video camera rolling to catch that one.
Theo the baboon loves to smell everything. He won’t eat anything without smelling it first. If you give him a banana he will smell it as if he suspects that you have stuffed something other than banana into a banana skin and given it to him. Even when he recognizes he has been given one of his favourite foods, he will not take a bite without smelling it first. One day Fabien gave Theo a papaya which is one of his absolute favourite foods. Fabien was surprised to see Theo smell the fruit and then make a face and throw it away. Being one of his favourites he should have started devouring it with relish. A minute later Theo smelled his empty hand and made a face again…he suddenly discovered that he had poop on his hand! So he cleaned his hand and then went and found the piece of fruit that he had thrown away, smelled it again and then started to eat it happily. Just goes to prove that you can never be too careful!
Newton Theo

1 comment:

chimpaunty said...

Thanks so much for putting these nice pics and stories on the blog. I tell every one I meet to read the blog on Fauna as there is a lto to to read and learn and I love the pics and hope soon to see you all in real life..:) from aunty to the chimps..:)