A surprising Christmas
Last December 25th was an unusual day, to say the least, at GAP Sanctuary in Sorocaba. The employees of the sanctuary requested to be released at 10 am, so they could spend part of the day with their families, in human celebration of Christmas. Generally, we always have a range of work and reduce the number of people in our team. On this occasion the strategy was: they would put all the food, wash away the dorms and leave them open until the next day, without doing the work they usually do in the afternoons.
At 10 am I was the only person on the perimeter of the sanctuary and this was not the routine, since I work there four days per week, and day 25th was the fifth day. The chimpanzees were not waiting for me there that day, but I was there to give the milk bottles to the baby chimpanzees, mainly.
When I took the day without specific tasks in the Sanctuary to visit some enclosures, I was surprised by the reaction of most chimpanzees, particularly the older ones and the ones suffering from major disturbances. All of them asked for help and for food, despite they had already been fed, and tried to find out what was happening. Then I realized that they felt abandoned, as long as at this hour of the day there was never such silence and lack of activity in the sanctuary.
Pongo, for example, which is kind of apathetic, climbed onto the grid and asked me for food. Bob, who eats small amounts of food, asked me a specific yogurt that had already been given to him.
So I began to distribute juices, yogurts, milk and jelly to all of them, as a demonstration that they would not starve, or would be abandoned to their fate by the humans who help them survive in captivity every day.
When I started distributing food, the reaction was of joy and thanksgiving. When I arrived on the grounds of Peter and his family (Peter, Tata and Judy, and children, Miguel and Marcelino) and started to put all the food in the trays, they embraced, like I was the savior of their lives. In the specific case of this group, which was very hungry during their lives in zoos, food is something essential, and the amount and variety too. They live for that.
It is interesting to conclude from these unexpected reactions that chimpanzees in the Sanctuary think of his stay in that place, and how they perceive the total dependence they have on us humans. If we disappear, as happened on the 25th, their death, to their understanding, was imminent and certain.
In the end, on December 25, 2012, I had to work a lot more than usual, since, for my guests chimpanzees, I was the only one and my presence and my actions would ensure the survival of their species.