Saturday, January 17, 2015

SFZoo Chimpanzees Need Some Love!

I mentioned this in a post about the Gorilla Death, but since this subject has been in the making for over a year, the following are the posts as I've intended.

In relation to the Gorillas, the Terry Maples rehire, and what I'm about to write about the Chimps and other Animals in need, please take a look at this post from 2012.


The Chimpanzees are the one Animal at the Zoo I remember most from my Childhood.  When I started learning about the Animals as individuals in 2008,  I learned they were the same ones I have visited my whole life.   I think learning this was initial to strengthening my connection to our Chimps, and since then, our Chimpanzee Family has had my Heart. 

I've previously wrote about the Chimps, but over the past near year, I didn't get to important issues about the Chimps.  It takes alot of thought and emotion to write posts of passion, and while gearing up these posts, something else came up and I delayed further.  I held off because of a Filmmakers dream to make a documentary on our Male Chimp Cobby.   Since Zoo Officials act weird about so many things, I didn't want to shine the light too bright and ruin anything for that Project.  In hindsight, I wish I had done things differently.  I really feel like I've let the Chimps down by not posting a continuous focus on how the Zoo Fails them.  They are the oldest Animals there, they deserve to be a Priority.

I have two main issues in regards to the Chimps.   The continued disregard of attention to the Environment of their Home and to the lack of Enrichment they get.

Over the past two years, the Zoo has been bringing in new Animals, either building new exhibits, or renovating old ones, as well building "party" areas for Humans.   With each one, my heart breaks for the Chimps just a bit more.

The Triple Grotto where the Chimps live was built in the 60s.  Prior to that the previous Zoo Chimps lived in the metal cages across from them, that now house Birds.  Cobby came to the Zoo at age 10 in 1968 and Maggie and Minnie as infants in 1970.   



The Triple Grottos originally housed the Orangutans in Grotto 1, the Chimps in 2, and I believe Mandrils in 3.   The Mandrils moved to the Primate Center and the last Orangutan, a Female named Lipz, was transferred to another Zoo.  She is still there and...    The last upgrade to those Grottos was in the mid 80s when climbing structures and landscaping were added to the barren cement islands.

In 1997 a City Bond was voted in that designated funds for the Zoo, with one project being The Great Ape Forest.  Please read the following post for more details and News Article links in regard to this.

That money was misappropriated and the Great Ape Forest never built.  Not one Director since then has made upgrading the Chimpanzee home/enclosure a priority.  

I'm asking every one of them WHY?!

Why has money been spent for other Animals, including new, non-rescue Animals being brought in?   

I have enjoyed seeing new Animals, but I would have more enjoyed seeing the Chimps and other Animals in the current collection who are in need, get upgrades.  I have no problem with bumping some things to provide a home for Animals facing euthanasia, therefore in need of rescuing.  But, the shift back to the current Resident Animals need as a priority should happen.

In addition to new Animal exhibits, I should not walk around the Zoo and see things like a Tiki Hut being built so the Director and other mucky mucks can have Cocktail Parties and such.  I should not see a Safari Style Camp Site being built, so Humans can come and stay over night there on occasion.



This attention to Human need came to an all time high when construction started ont he new Playground.  While its been shoved down our throats that money was donated specifically for this, the issue is, WHY?  Doesn't the Director let Donors know what NEEDS there are?  WHY?  When over 3 million was donated for this playground, didn't the Director say, Wow thats generous, but we can make a nice playgound for half that, would you consider us using the other half for Animal upgrades?  NO!  That doesn't and would never happen!  Why?  Because I honestly do not believe the thought of the Animals ever enters Director Tanya Petersons mind. She let poor Wishbone (oh YES I will bring how they killed him up every chance I get!)  pound his bones to a literal death, living on concrete his whole life.  They, the Director, the Board, the Rec and Park, two Donors specifically, they all knew this for over a year before his death.  How do I know this?  I personally sent them post letters in regard to this.  Please read my blog for more info .. link

I can go on about several Animals in need, but I will make a separate post as I know this one is already getting lengthy and I appreciate the time readers take to hear my voice for the Animals.

SO, what we do know at this point is since 1997 the Zoo has not made any plan to build a new Home for the Chimpanzees.  They have not even made a plan to upgrade the Chimpanzees Home.   

Their current home includes a main building with peeling paint.  A structure (Grotto 2) that is rusting with peeling paint.  A rusting twigging box (used to "fish" out molasses and honey.  Regarless of any other upgrades, these points are a disgrace.  




Since I mentioned "plans", let me digress for a bit and question to anyone out there, were there ever drawn plans for the Great Ape Forest?  If so, please let me know and if they can be obtained.

Continuing on.  I have not kept an eye on any other Administration, so yes, I will focus on the current one.  As I mentioned Director Tanya Peterson has failed to highlight any of the current Animals in need.  Instead, focusing on raising funds for new Animals.

Not one ZooFest since Director Peterson's reign stared in 2008 have been to raise funds for the Chimpanzees.   Nor have they been on any recent Master Plan.

SO, let's talk about the Chimps.  My precious Zoo Friends, Cobby, Maggie, and Minnie.   These incredible beings have lived at the Zoo for over 40 years.  

Don't the Chimps deserve to be a priority?

Over the past seven years, I have had so many ideas run through my mind at how their home can be made better.  Over the past couple years, I've tweaked that a bit based on their age and how sensitive Cobby is.  I once witnessed construction on one of the Bird cages across from the Chimps and Cobby was so upset by the sound of the saw on metal, that I thought not too much can be done, at least not for an extended amount of time, but that doesn't mean there aren't things that could be done.

It isn't all awful, but they need stuff done for them.    There is no room for them to run and play.  they go out and up to the structure where they sit all day.  There is no big grassy area.  It can be made to resemble other grotto style exhibits.  Its just no one has put the Chimps at the front of the line.  Sadly, I don't even think they are in the line.  

Leave the first grotto as their familar, public foraging and lounging area.  change the second and third grottos into a large grassy area, that they can move about in, instead of the small island that they go out to, climb rusty bars with peeling paint and sit.  They've been sitting there for 30 years.  Its time for a change.  

A few years ago, one of the structures in the far Grotto (I call 3) had to be taken down for safety reasons.  For along time they didn't even have access to that area and even now I don't know that its available to them all the time, although after a huge tree trunk was added, I have seen them on occasion in there.  A new structure was not built, but in not doing that it does provide them with some extra movement space, which the other two Grottos having structures do not because they take up most of the island ground space.  This I like.

When I saw the construction of the Bobcat and Anteaters new homes, with man-made tree and feeder mounds, I wondered WHY? Something like this has never been done for the Chimps?  I'm sure the Chimps would love some natural feeling trees to climb on instead of the rusted metal jungle gym they have now.  I'm sure they would love to have a fabricated structure for Twigging, rather than the old rusted metal box they have now.  I'm sure the Chimps would love ANYTHING!

anteater forage mound

(misplaced photo of bobcat tree structures, will post later. but these of the playground banyan trees are comparable)



The new Favorite "sons" the Red Pandas keep getting additions to their home.  I'm adding this in as only in the past few weeks have I noticed that they now have three tree houses.  I'm sure the Chimps would love even one.



Like wise when I saw the construction of the Playground, again with the man-made trees with the addition of rope made swings, I pictured Cobby sitting in one of those swing seats and it made me smile.  WHY? hasn't something similar been made for the Chimps?  The (noisey?) construction for the base of those trees could be done off exhibit and securely added and then built up around that with not much noise.   These are upgrades that could be done Grotto by Grotto.  



Making upgrades revitalizes an old area and the Animals life.  To me that should be a priority.  Why hasn't it been?   It wouldn't be the cost of a new exhibit, but would at least bring something new and enriching into their lives.

I noted the noise issue because of what I previously stated, yet it illustrates that the Zoo continually lets Visitors upset Cobby, which makes me think the distrubance while my consideration is not the root of the issue here.  I think the current Management just doens't put the Chimps at priority status.  Its really sad because they haven't been a priority there since the 80s evidentially.  These are Animals who are most closely related to Humans, with thoughts linear to ours.   WHY? Can't they have more?  

Additional thoughts on upgrading the existing exhibit.  While thinking over the past few years about how to upgrade the current enclosure, because of noise factor my original thoughts have changed a bit.   My main thought was they needed to make a larger movement area, that could only be accomplished by demolishing the islands in two of the three grottos or filling in the moats.  Any demolision would be too noisey at this point in their lives.   The later is not only the least noisey, but would also provide a viewing area for Visitors.  The only things it would require are A- Take down the existing structure in Grotto 2.  B- Build a "bridge" for the middle and far Grottos (2 and 3) to become a connected flat surface area.  C- Fill the moat.  Possibly extending the surface area, if possible to create different barrier.  D-Landscape the surface.  E- If possible, build up the surrounding walls using both probably using both concrete, but mostly glass, and possibly some fencing?  I'm not a professional, so I don't know what kind of non-moat barrier would be needed.  This would not take much construction, could be done in shifts to lessen disturbance.  After the trees, swings, and twigging mounds could be added.   Obviously I'm just throwing ideas out there, but at least I'm thinking about the Chimps, which is less than Zoo Officials have done in near two decades.
 two views of Grotto 2 and 3.  Much unused space 
could be connected to form large grass area


The Zoo needs to stop being lazy and disinterested in the Chimps.  More Visitors than there are ones who harass them, Love them.   For many, like me, they have been there my whole life.  They are the one Animal at the Zoo that almost every visit I see students observing.  Because of their use in Entertainment, Chimpanzees are probably one of the most Personalized Animals in Zoos.  And while there is a whole other message in that last sentence, the point is, Chimps are well loved Animals, and the San Francisco Zoo Needs to Show our wonderful Chimps Some Love!

There is no reason these types of upgrades can't be made.  There is no reason they can't be kept inside most of the day on weekdays while this gets done.  They can be kept busy watching movies, painting,whatever other inside activities and entertainment they are provided. 

The Enrichment issue Zoo-wide has been a passion point for me for years.   When I learned what Enrichment was and I was able to participate in making "enrichment" Toys for the Big Cats and Bears,  it became one of the things I focus on.  I have a post in draft about Enrichment specifically, so for now I'll just note that while there is several different aspects to Enrichment, I can obviously only write about what I can see and that is the Enrichment that is put out while the Animals are "on exhibit".  That said, exhibit hours make up most of the time the Keepers are there, which is basically the same time frame, so in my opinion, what we see is probably mostly, what they get. 

In regard to the Chimps specifically, the Keepers routine is to clean Grotto 1 and put their Enrichment Items out.  To me, the offerings are most often not so much.  They only get fun and different stuff for the Halloween Event and if the Zoo can use them for a Media pimp.   Each Holiday goes by and they get nothing new, even though stores like Target and Michaels have inexpensive themed items that could be given to them.   I know this because I fantasize about them having these things, everytime I'm in a store.   What they do get is the same Halloween buckets from a few years ago, weekly year-round.  They get disgarded glove and Keeper food boxes and grocery bags.  I wouldn't complain about these items, as they do provide a container for treats, but this has been the consistent extent of the effort for years.   I don't see them get Ice Treats very often anymore, and that puts a smile on their face everytime.   In my opinion, they get very little fun and a whole lot of bored.

Anytime there is something different than their normal daily "food" forage, (which I don't even list as Enrichment unless its presented in a different or challenging way), they are so happy!  They go crazy for fun stuff and they hardly get it.  When preparation is on for Halloween Event, the go insane with anticipation.  It is a joy to watch how happy they are.  WHY? Don't they have this more often?  They don't even get Birthday celebrations, which ironically have been noted by the Chimpanzee SSP Facebook page, which they do for al the Chimps in North American Zoos, often saying "I know your Keepers wil give you special treats.."  Well, not at the San Francisco Zoo they won't.  The last Birthday celebration was in 2009 when Cobby had a Party only because I shamed them into it when my Friend and I wanted to make a Card for Cobby.  


Chimps whose brains are very close to humans, and in my experience,surpass that of many humans.  They should be provided with daily mental stimulation and yet they aren't.  In my opinion it shows a lack of compassion and care, in addition to severe laziness on the part of the Animal Management Staff, specifically Primate Curator Corinne MacDonald.  In my opinion any fails in the Animal Dept.  falls on the Curators.  They dictate to the Keepers what can and can not be done for the Animals.  So, if a Keeper isn't doing something, its because of the Curator's word or from laziness.  If laziness, then again that falls on the Curator, who then doesn't manage their Team properly. 

1 comment:

  1. I cant even think of anything to add to your views on the chimps. They are disrespected in many many many ways. They aren't even putting out blankets for all of them anymore. I usually now see one blanket that's been out all night and wet from the overnite fog. The little bit of fruit the keepers throw in, isn't what I'd call enrichment, it's just food for them and they need plenty as they are aging. I feel very close to these precious chimps and am hurt that the zoo has completely disrespected them and the money has gone to new ideas and probably more cocktail parties to raise things for more parties and newer things while out senior animals suffer.

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