Monday, November 12, 2012

San Francisco Zoo Knowingly Upsets its Senior Chimp

I will start by saying that I find what I'm about to write about very disturbing BUT not surprising as the San Francisco Zoo while promoting the hell out of their "Wellness" Initiative, in my opinion continue to not make the Animals who live there a priority.

Last Monday (November 5, 2012) I finished up my visit at the Chimps.  Before I even approached the area I could hear very (VERY!) loud electric equipememnt sounds coming from that area.   I saw they were working on the Bird cages directly across from the Chimps.  Photo below taken four days later on Thursday.

Work being done
photo 11.8.2012

I know they want to expand some cages to create better flight areas, so I assume that was what was being done.  The loud metallic grinding sound appeared to be coming from an electric saw cutting the metal.  It was very loud, and prolonged.  Really awful sound to hear if you are sensitive to that sort of thing.  I'm not, but Cobby (the male Chimp) is.

As I walked closer to the Chimp enclosure, I viewed Cobby coming out from the night quarters.  He was Stumbling and at first I thought there was something wrong with his legs, because the stumble was such that he couldn't walk properly, in fact he was close to falling down.  In hindsight because of the situation I wonder if there wasn't something else medically attacking him.  

Once he got off the "bridge" and onto to grotto, he was visibly VERY upset.  Already in full bristle (hair standing up on end)  and swinging his arms back and forth, he pounded his feet all around the structure, eventually rolling up magazines and throwing them in the direction of the offence.   

These photos are from Snapshots taken from the Video I took.   You can view the video at length here:

Cobby visibly upset 
Video Snapshot 11.5.12

Cobby ready to throw magazine
Video Snapshot 11.5.12

While Visitors often mistake this behavior as something else and always proceed to laugh, heckle and continue to upset him, anyone who works at the Zoo KNOWS that this is Cobby in a very agitated state.

This is not new behavior for him, he is easily upset by loud noises and harassing Visitors.   The problem with this particular situation is that the Zoo knows this and yet this construction was allowed to happen while he was out on exhibit.   One Staff Member stood across the path overseeing the construction, with his back turned away from Chimps = no concern for how this might upset them, especially Cobby knowing his sensitivity.   AND  four days later when I visited, there were magazines on the Visitor side again, which means Cobby had been out throwing magazines again that very day.  So, I am to conclude that this was an upset that he endured for at least four days.  Awful.

Magazines that had been thrown
Photo 11.8.12

The Zoo's Chimps are all Seniors.  They have lived at the Zoo since the 60s and are all well into their 50s.   Consideration should be taken for their "Wellness" and they should not knowingly be subjected to this level of upset.   There is no reason the Zoo could not either shorten their hours "on" exhibit and do this in the morning before and in the afternoon after such hours, OR like they did for the Gorillas (when their new glass was installed), leave them inside while construction is being done.  They love movies and would have sat inside watching one having popcorn while this was going on.  There is absolutely NO reason Cobby and frankly his Heart had to be put through this.   

I find this extra disturbing as I have witnessed Cobby upset many times before. There are  "shoosh" signs at the enclosure, yet not only do the Visitors ignore the signs, obviously so does the Staff.  As I have stated these are not young Chimps.  They are always targeted by Visitors, heckling them, laughing at them, making ape gestures, its disgusting.  I don't know why people come to the Zoo sometimes.  BUT for the purpose of this post, I am concentrated on the Zoo Staff (excluding Keepers).

That all said, the Zoo needs to not only check their own behavior, but post more signs to keep quiet at Chimps, as well as one that includes an explanation of Cobbys behavior and not to laugh, heckle, or gesture at him, to further upset him.

I will include two links to previous posts I've made about this situation.

An incident, when I witnessed a group of Visitors upset Cobby and when he threw something at them, the Visitors threw it back AT him and the Zoo did nothing about it.

A continual sound issue surrounding the Zoo's annual Lunar (Chinese New Year) Event.  


  1. I was there last week to witness this incident with poor precious Cobby. I love this chimp,he's very special. Cobby is sensitive and doesnt like his world rocked. The noise was horrible esp because it was drilling and sawing on metal and not wood. Cobby was extremely agitated by it. An older Chimp shouldnt have to have this happen. I totally agree with your words on this, hardly nothing to add except I remember a couple years ago we had been in a brief discussion with this curator about hecklers, ect. and he said "oh people will keep doing this and the animals are used to it". I thought that was a horrible answer as to why people are allowed to be that way. Ok, I am getting off track a bit, but I was very upset to see Cobby so upset. I don't like change and I don't like noise either, but I don't bristle and throw things as I can take care of the issue, Cobby was stuck dealing with this for a week. Again, the zoo totally doesnt handle their "wellness" programing very well. I am gonna visit Cobby today, hope the noise is over with.

  2. @Lee- Thank you for your comment. The ironic thing is, they have the shoosh sign (which should be at all exhibits) there, yet there is excessive noise all over the place at times, in addition to loud Visitors who walk around talking loud and often at the Animals. YES both he and other Staff make allowances for people to act the fool around and towards the Animals, excusing it as the Animals being used to it. Just like the Staffer who said the Bears didn't need upgraded homes because they were used to walking on concrete. Tell that to the Andean Bears. Oh wait, you can't, the Zoo killed both of them by letting them pound their bones to a literal death. You may think I am digressing, but its the same thing. Is the Zoo waiting for someone to give Cobby a heart attack? Note to Zoo, none of this is falls under the category of Animal Wellness.

  3. I am posting this for a friend who has trouble commenting on the blog. I Thank her for taking the time to email me her comments to post. ...

    I remember when a lot of construction work was going on around the gorillas, maybe 20 years ago but after they were in their present enclosure. It was very upsetting then, and play and the associated gesturing almost totally stopped. I could show this in my records scientifically, a big drop in number of observations for months. And the males are most disturbed, always, as their natural role is as protectors for their groups and there is nothing they can do.


  4. @Joanne- Thank you for you comment. I always learn something from you! Your insight especcially in regards to Apes is wonderful. ... If anyone is intersted in Joanne's work and observations of the San Francisco Zoo Gorilla Troop, please check out her site which has tons of great information, including videos. ...


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