i am SO in love with your blog - it's absolutely amazing what you do for these beautiful animals, and i hope you're very proud of your work! i'd love to volunteer at an ape sanctuary myself one day, and i just want you to know what a great inspiration you are to me :) lots of love <3
Well, thanks so much for taking the time to tell us. Good luck on your journey and we are sure you will in turn inspire others. Best, FF
Guest post by Kaeley Sullins with Meg Mas: Primate Caregivers at Fauna
One year ago today I got a text at 4am letting me know that two of my closest friends were taking off on an airplane. I woke up, threw on some slippers, ran out the door and watched as the lights of that plane taking my friends away, got smaller and smaller–Tatu and Loulis were headed to Fauna Foundation. As tears poured down my face, I felt both sadness and joy. I was saddened not only for my loss, but also by the loss their friends would feel back in Washington. And of course, by the notion that Tatu and Loulis would never again see the place they’d known as home for so long. But I was happy for their prospects of new friendships and new adventures. In this post, I’d like to take you on the journey I watched my dear friends take as they embarked on this new adventure.
Tatu and Loulis arrived at Fauna Foundation and were greeted with open arms by their new Fauna family. Two of their old friends, Meg Mas and Dr. Mary Lee Jensvold, were with them to help make the transition to this new, unfamiliar place with unfamiliar faces. The first few weeks were tough; so many new sounds, new faces, new spaces, new friends…there was a lot to take in. But, after a while, after being reassured and comforted, Tatu and Loulis gained more confidence in their new home. They began to venture around their new space–the chimphouse–and absorb the massive, complex building, not to mention the 11 unfamiliar chimpanzee faces looking back at them. Let’s not forget that both Loulis and Tatu had only known 3 other chimpanzees their entire lives.
Meg Mas and I were assigned the task of interpreter, friend and caregiver to Tatu and Loulis. The first months were slow going. Loulis was unsure of the layout of his new space (and uncertain of the occasional bang or pant hoot behind the plexiglass from the chimpanzees next door) and tended to stay in one area. Tatu ran everywhere she was permitted, watching every chimpanzee and every caregiver, getting the lay of the land. But she would return to Loulis at the slightest bit of uneasiness she felt coming from his direction. They are each other’s source of reassurance and confidence.
As soon as they were allowed, little time wasted in meeting their first new friend, Sue Ellen. I wasn’t there to witness the event but the description alone will bring anyone to tears. Tatu and Loulis needed and deserved new friends and after settling in, they finally met one. Meg Mas wrote this about Tatu meeting Sue Ellen for the first time…
“After days of asking to go IN THERE with Sue, we were finally able to respond with YES YOU GO IN THERE! Tatu pant-hooted continuously until Gloria opened the door. At this point Tatu was in the upstairs area and Sue Ellen was in the outdoor enclosure downstairs.
As soon as Gloria opened the first upstairs door Tatu ran over to another door and asked IN THERE?
We had to do our best to explain to her to go downstairs. Finally, I just said “Tatu, the blue stairs there! Look!” She was very excited! Pilo erect and pant hooting she responded by signing YOU GO THERE …so I went downstairs and called her name. She came down the stairs and immediately went through another door that leads to the outdoor enclosure. Sue Ellen was outside and the two met in the short chute that connects that enclosure to the rest of the building. (See photos)
Tatu and Sue Ellen sat there holding each other and breathy panting for several minutes. Non-stop breathy panting! Then, Tatu stood up and walked over to the door that leads to the island and asked IN THERE? We had to tell her SORRY NOT NOW…so she walked back to Sue, hugged her, and they breathy panted some more. For the next hour or so Tatu explored her new space while Sue Ellen followed her around. Occasionally Tatu would run back over to Sue and they would hug and breathy pant or groom…and then Tatu would go explore more. We had planned on separating them for the night (while no humans are in the building) but they had other plans! They were never in separate rooms. I think they’ve only spent two or three nights apart since they met.”
Loulis met Sue Ellen not too long after Tatu and the 3 have been inseparable since.
Shortly after meeting Susie, Tatu met Spock. As Tatu’s friends and caregivers, we’ve all known her to be a “chimps chimp”. This means she knows all the tools and tactics to make friends with other chimpanzees. This is why Tatu generally meets new friends first, then Loulis follows suit. Here is a little something Meg wrote about Spock and Tatu meeting for the first time:
“Today was a big exciting day here! We have been talking about introducing Spock and Tatu for a few weeks now and it finally happened. Tatu asked several times to go IN with him and at around 11:30am Gloria opened the door. Spock stood bipedal while Tatu sat in front of him a few feet away. They came together and hugged! Lots and lots of big hugs, breathy pants and open mouth kisses. Then Tatu walked outside. Spock followed her around (they were both still breathy panting) and then grabbed her foot and held onto it. She crutch-walked around in circles with a tripedal Spock walking behind her holding on to her foot. It was pretty cute…Tatu kept looking back at him and they were both laughing. Every few minutes they would stop, hug, and tickle. A few times Spock lay down in front of her and they held hands, tickled each other and repeatedly open mouth kissed.”
Meg and I both agreed, it was love at first snuggle.
Spock is a great guy. Loulis met Spock shortly after Tatu and when Loulis first realized that Spock was in the same room as he was, he did not know what to do. Luckily, Tatu was there to offer support and Spock was ever so patient with his new friend. They spent the first few meetings hanging out in the same room, but never touching. Now, Loulis and Spock are great friends. Where Spock goes, Loulis goes and you can usually hear breathy panting coming from their direction.
As the months pass, Tatu and Loulis have become more confident in their new home. They have more and more friends to make, human and chimpanzee alike. They’ve taken everything in stride and shown great resilience given their circumstances. It’s only been a year but I can tell you things have changed. As a caregiver in both their old and new homes, I can see the change. Tatu, Loulis and I (as well as many other caregivers at CHCI) spent hours together looking at magazines, resting, grooming or playing chase. But now, they’ve got no time for caregivers! Every once in a while we can get in a good game of CHASE or a nice long grooming session, but they are rare these days. They are too busy being with each other or with their new chimpanzee friends. Tatu pant-hoots so often that I think I’m going deaf in one ear. Anything and everything is exciting; apples on nearby trees, pant-hoot; the arrival of the produce shipment, pant-hoot. Arriving in the morning with a banana for a snack later on in the day, pant-hoot (don’t worry, we share the bananas). The world is their oyster!
I am extremely grateful to have witnessed their new adventures and I am excited to see what’s in store for my two friends in the years to come. I don’t think I can ever express enough gratitude for the opportunity Fauna has granted these two wonderful people.