What would we do without Jim?
Story written bij a caregiver for the occasion of AAP's 40th anniversary
It was a day as any other. Lights went on in the department and caretakers were slowly getting ready to clean up the mess from yesterday that was left after a day out in the sun. As usual, chimpanzee Jim was already sitting in front of the mesh, patiently waiting for his morning lemonade. Of course unaware of the fact that the only reason he is given this privilege is because the caretakers add his medication to his morning treat. But Jim figures, as he believes he is most definitely the most important individual in the complex, the drink has the sole purpose of showing the rest that this is indeed the case.
But something was off this morning. Did the keepers suddenly forget about his greatness? Why on earth were they first focusing on some new arrival that clearly was of a lesser status then himself? And can they not see that I am waiting for my drink?? Hellooo! I’m thirsty…!?! Clearly not.. But Jim and his brilliant mind know exactly how to deal with situations like these. It was not the first time that he was forced to take action when routine was not going according to plan. Clearly the complex would be a complete chaos if it wasn’t for him.
So Jim slowly moves away from the mesh, looks around in his enclosure to find the perfect, most annoying object. Bingo…! He found it. A bottle that he had to destroy with his teeth yesterday to get to the honey and seeds inside. The caretakers were foolish enough to put a cap on the bottle. What were they thinking, I tell ya!! But this should get their attention, and Jim starts to slide the bottle back and forth over the concrete floor whilst at the same time stamping his feet to create a noise so perfectly terrifying that the caretakers would have no other choice then to immediately give in to any of his royal demands. Jim knows that this routine works like a charm as he always notices that every single caretaker is simply unable to hide their fear. Jim has become an expert in human behaviour over the course of the years and knows that if humans are showing their teeth, you have successfully frightened them.
The caretakers’ side of the story:
We are in front of the enclosure of Koko, doing our best to create chimp like noises to stimulate him to talk in his own language when the time comes to introduce him to another chimp… When suddenly we hear the all to familiar sound of Jim starting one of his displays. I am always amazed that he is still capable with his old and wrinkly body. It must be serious business to him, but none of us caretakers is able to resist the hilarious show called Jim. So we walk towards the enclosure where Jim is performing his One Man Show. Completely out of breath already, unable to bend his knees when stamping with his feet and always in need of an object to at least create some sort of noise when he feels the need to show that he is still a real man. I can’t help it, and neither can my colleagues. Whenever we look at one of Jim’s displays we simply cannot hide our smiles. He seems so fragile, but is completely unaware of the fact that he aged beyond the capacity of performing impressive displays. But it’s alright. It seems that Jim is even more encouraged to show off when we laugh about him.
Let’s quickly give him his medication, I tell my colleagues. If he keeps this up he’ll exhaust himself, we joke. And surely as soon as Jim spots the bottle of lemonade he leaves the displaying for what it is. He comes forward as if that was the whole purpose of the display. He drinks the juice in one go, then pokes at the bottle, to show that he is annoyed. But we are only comforted by the fact that he took his medication again this morning. Cause whatever would we do without Jim!
Caroline Borst, Assistant Team Leader Chimpanzee Complex