April 18, 2018
Caring for animals can be very challenging; doing that in a sanctuary setting, with multiple numbers and species of primates, makes it even more so.
The reality is that every animal at our sanctuary, through no fault of their own, is totally dependent on human care for the rest of their lives. And the very nature of primate care includes the spectrum of disease and ailments that may affect humans—without the ability of the ‘patient’ to vocalize any pain or underlying problems, particularly at their earliest stages. Therefore, the difficulties providing care for these remarkable animals means PPI is dependent on reliable observation of its residents.
The front-line care staff must be capable of distinguishing ‘normal’ behavioral/physical attributes from problems to assure timely reporting of anything unusual. So every morning and throughout the day, our sanctuary animals are visually monitored for their health and overall well-being. Some of our animals are encouraged through positive reinforcement techniques (food, such a such as dried fruit or nuts are popular reinforcers) to present specific body parts for a closer look and even brush their teeth. This enables care staff and our veterinarian to comfortably perform oral check-ups, temperature readings and injections safely from outside their habitats.
If it is determined that an animal needs a more extensive medical exam or surgical procedure, he or she is anesthetized for the procedure and carefully brought into our sanctuary’s medical clinic.
In addition, when it comes to clean-up chores, or removing items in exercise and play areas, we have to be creative to gain access while animals are safely contained for their protection, as well as for the protection of care staff. Many of the chimpanzees have mastered the art of trading, allowing us to switch out soiled linens and remnants of the previous day’s enrichment activities without having care staff physically enter the habitats.
Finally, every week at a minimum, sometimes more often, care staff will shift the animals into their night buildings to give staff an opportunity to access their exterior enclosures. We provide sensory enrichment such as food treat puzzles, movies or indoor laser shows to stimulate all of the animals’ senses—visual, auditory, taste, smell, and touch—to keep them engaged while inside. Then care staff can safely enter the outdoor habitats for routine cleaning as well as changing structural enrichment, like hammocks and tire swings.
So how is food given out? Check back soon for the next installment of Animal Care at Primarily Primates!