Curiosities - Information
Recently we implemented at the Sanctuary a new form of entertainment for the chimpanzees with the exhibition of films, documentaries and cartoons on DVDs. We use a portable DVD, with a renewable battery, to make the use in any place of the enclosures easier. We are in the beginning of this environmental enrichment process, but out preliminary observations are impressive.
The first one to watch the DVD was Billy. I put the documentary about the brazilian fifth championship of Sao Paulo soccer club, that presents images of games, interviews and several songs - I myself am a fan of the club, but my intention was not to influence him. I just used a DVD that was easy to get. The documentary lasted more than two hours and Billy standed sit at his table during all the time, paying attention to every scene. He just moved the change the side he was sit, just like us when our body gets tired after a long period in the same position.
Some days later a documentary about "HELP Congo" was exhibited to Alex and Carol. As the film had images of chimpanzees, they paid all the attention they could, especially Carol, who standed in front of Alex and did not move until the end of the film. This same film was exhibited to Bongo, Monica, Martin, Vitor and Billy.
The curiosity about this is that everyone reacted with fear when one of the scenes showed a baby chimpanzee being taken off the arms of his mother so that people in charge could weight him and evaluate his health state. The baby, who was not aware of what was happening, yelled. At this specific moment, Carol, who normally is very quiet, had an attittude that I had never seen before. She shivered and yelled, as warning everybody that something was wrong. Monica also shivered, but screamed in a lower tone while staring at the TV during all the time, with a sad and concerned look. Martin and Alex, who were not paying much attention, looked at the screen when they heard the yelling. On the other hand, Billy watched the video withou getting nervous. I would not say that he did not react to the scene, but that he knows the difference of what is real and what is filmed.
Another interesting example was Monica, who shivered and showed her irritation everytime a woman appeared on the film - she does not like women very much. During another scene that a group of chimpanzees was screaming in panic, I pretended I was afraid (doing, or trying to do, the sounds they usually make). Immediately, Bongo, who was at my side watching the film, gave me his hand in order to calm me down. Just like a hiperactive child, Vitor was not able to watch the film. I took his hand to do some gromming, but he was not completely concentrated.
This behaviours are very similar to ours, both on childhood or on adult life. Is there any child who does not get scared with yelling of a suspense or thriller film? Or with witches and monsters? In this case, the "monsters" would be the persons who took the baby off the arms of the mother, causing panic.
I still remember the fear I used to feel when the witch of the film "Snow White and the seven Dwarfes" appeared. Today I know that she was an actress with a lot of make-up, but how many children are afraid wIth that? Didn't we hide or look for help from someone who was near us? Isn't it the same today, when we face a fear situation?
If we know the difference between fiction and reality, why wouldn't they know? If there are hiperactive children, why would it be different with them? If there are people who can keep sit for hours in front of a TV machine, watching a film just because they want to, why do we insist on denying that chimps are like us - or we are like them?
It's not a matter of giving them humane characteristics, but of assuming that they have these characteristics.
Msc. Luiz Fernando Leal Padulla