Blog: The girl next door
It is Sunday morning. At ease, because that is how we like it on Sundays, we finisch our tasks in the outside enclosures of the Chimpanzee Complex. Vegetables are scattered, apples are hidden and ice creams are hanged (read: huge ice cubes in bucket size, with grape, banana and pear). And as finishing touch fresh willow branches in the enclosure of the group of Huub, because the leaves and bark of these branches are so tasty and the rest of it can be used as tools to collect those apples that the caregivers left just out of reach. We believe that its best that the chimps work a little bit for their food, even on Sunday when we decided to take it easy.
But the animals of this group have other plans this Sunday and are walking impatiently up and down the (still closed) hatch that gives entrance to the outside enclosure. They needed to wait inside while we were still outside, and when we come back inside, they are still walking at the closed hatch (restless). Especially Fuad is annoyed and thinks about spitting at us with water from the tab that hangs near the spot where we need to control the hatch. And only because we make a move to open the door, he decides to walk away and swallows the water instead. Before he walks through the door to the outside enclosure he lookes over his shoulder and gives us an angry look . That will teach us a lesson....
The only chimpanzees in a hurry to go outside are the four men of the group. Not for the effort that we have had to ensure our chimps of a nice Sunday. No, this morning all the attention goes to Phill, a female chimpanzee in the group next to them. Normally, Phil is not so interesting as now. She is even kinda boyish, has only attention for group member Peggy and likes to stay out of all that happens in her group. But now she is in 'estrus' and she walks through the enclosure with a huge swelling on her genitals. And that swelling is making her so popular at this moment. It is like a flag, hanging out to show the opposite sex that she is fertile. For a week or two boyish Phill is transformed into this pretty, most wanted beauty of the world. Although, that is what our male chimps think. And they only feel this way the two weeks that the swelling is visible, after that the love will soon cool down and Phill will fall back into her original role.
Fuad is demanding her attention on the other side of the fence: 'look at me, come here, yoohooooo!!' He is trying very hard to convince her of is virility. Tiresome as that is he also needs to worry about his three other grou pmates that are trying to seduce Phill from a better spot. This is not without consequences because every male wants the only right to mate with a female. All of the males are getting frustrated and once again the virility is shown. But this time against each other and all four man are trying to beat one and other with stamping feet, waving arms and most impressive sounds. But only bragging is not enough to keep the competition on distance and beautifull Phill is even worth a fight.
A week later, everything is back to normal. Phil is not that popular anymore and the men are sitting peacefully together in the sun. They are picking each others fleas to comfirm there friendship, the same friendship that was so brittle just a few days ago. It looks like the men are closing a pac; never again will we let a woman come between us and our friendship... Hmmm, clever thinking guys, but we all know that it will only last untill the the next female swelling. Until that time the saying: "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer" seems like a good saying to me!
Caroline Borst, Assistant Team Leader Chimpanzee Complex