Blog: Marria’s journey
Rationally the owner knew that is was impossible, but how could you possibly ignore those helpless brown peepers. And so Marria’s Portuguese human family took her in as a small chimpanzee baby after Marria’s mother was gunned down.
Enough is enough
Some people ask if had not better leave her with her Portuguese human family. I understand the question but even though a chimp grows up in a family, it still is and will always be a wild animal. When chimpanzees reach puberty they will try to take over and will beat, bite and demolish. This usually happens when chimpanzees are between 7 and 9 years old. Marria took a bit longer but she reached that stage eventually. Last month to be exact. The man of the house was on a business trip and Marria took the opportunity to become a real chimp. Thus ending up in the garage a few weeks ago. Fiffy and Mojo spent decades in a similar situation, fortunately Marria was spared such an ordeal.
The authorities got wind of her situation and called us. Although the owner did not want to see us at first, she eventually went along with the confiscation and gave us a lot of information on Marria. She supplied a stack of photos of little Marria, clothed of course, playing, colouring, asleep on someone’s lap and petting a dog. So cute and yet so heartwrenching. I so would have loved to see her fall asleep not on a human lap but in her mother’s arms in Guinea-Bissau, to see her dangling from branches with her cousins and play tag or tease birds together. I can’t give her that back but I can help her lead a great life as a chimp with chimp friends that understand her and stay with her 24 hours a day. She embarks on a remarkable journey that I can watch from a distance and still feel very close. Marria decided for herself to start on this journey. The pictures show an older Marria without clothes. She still sits at a table and eats with a fork but rebellion started there.
A new life at AAP
Marria will be in AAP’s quarantine for a couple of months so that we are able to see if she does not carry any diseases or infections which might harm to the other chimps or the caretakers. The change from Portugal to AAP’s quarantine is huge, but after all the anxiety Marria will enjoy the rest.
Marria’s Dream Team
AAP formed a Dream Team for Marria: a team of caretakers, team leaders, behavioural biologists and vets making sure that she has everything she needs. This Dream Team discusses Marria’s support. We share how she is doing, what she eats, the toys she plays with and which chimp gestures and noises she has adopted. For the time being she will have access to lots of kids toys like Duplo, dolls, magazines and sidewalk chalk and a few chimp toys like chunk balls and boxes filled with wood wool and tasty seeds. The more chimp toys she uses, less human toys she will get. This way, Marria herself is in lead of her progress. We will use the same method with her food; she loves her fruit and leafy vegetables but hard vegetables like carrots and broccoli and chimpanzee chunks are not her favourite to say the least. The caretakers blend them into a delicious soup, which she really likes. The soup is served in a bowl with a spoon, as she is used to. We are slowly letting her get used to a proper chimpanzee diet, so that in the future she will be able to gather a nice meal.
The caretakers are her Dream-team-buddies. They will have play sessions with her. They will show her how chimpanzee toys work, groom her and act as chimpanzee as possible by making chimp noises and gestures and play the chimp way. They will pretend the soup and chimp chunks are absolutely scrumptious so that Marria will join them eating. Marria is still spooked by sudden noises. When her buddies ignore these sounds, Marria will quickly learn she does not have to be afraid of anything. And when the buddies have to tend to other animals she will, for now, have a TV showing a nice nature documentary. That way we will help her get through her quarantine period while she will slowly learn how to be ‘ape’.
After her time in quarantine she’ll adjust to the resocialisation department, and will be introduced to a fellow chimp. First the hatch will be opened slightly so that she can have a peek at the neighbours. It is difficult to estimate how long this process will take; Linda almost immediately went to Julio, but Mojo needed much longer. How much time Marria will need is hard to predict right now. But we’re not there yet. Marria is at AAP for a week now and her journey to become a real chimp has only just started. Step by step… We’ll keep you posted!
Godelieve Kranendonk, Caregiving and Resocialization