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April 25, 2012

Designing Fun for Retired Chimpanzees

Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch chimpanzees have new ways to keep busy and kick back

The Humane Society of the United States / The Fund for Animals

  • The chimpanzees have a few recent improvements to their outdoor enclosure. Kathy Milani/The HSUS

  • Using the hay and cardboard box provided by staff, Kitty makes a nest on her tower. The HSUS

  • A volunteer brightens up the new building in the chimps’ outdoor habitat. JP Bonnelly/The HSUS

  • Volunteer Bobby Reece and a boy scout put a roof on the new building. The HSUS

The chimpanzees now in retirement at Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch spent years held captive in research laboratories. That’s why we make sure that our resident chimpanzees get the chance to do what they like—play, paint, or kick back—all day, every day.

When Lulu, Midge, or Kitty want to get away from it all, they have a cozy new cave created from a buried concrete culvert surrounded by rocks, mounded with dirt, and planted with ground cover.

Kitty, our senior female, also loves to make nests out of large cardboard boxes filled with hay and food. Nest-making is a behavior she would exhibit in the wild. After we put out several large, treat filled boxes into the chimp’s yard, we open the doors for the chimps. Kitty runs out, grabs the box, and transports it up to her “tower”. She pulls out all of the goodies, climbs inside of the box, and pulls her treats inside with her. It's not usually very long before she’s fast asleep in the sunshine.

We’ve also added some new enrichment activities for the chimpanzees. We’ve been dispersing the chimps’ food throughout the enclosure, in both high and low places, so they get a chance to find it—similar to the way they would forage in the wild.

They also have a new view, thanks to volunteer Bobby Reece and two local Boy Scouts who built a new rooftop over the wooden building in the chimps’ outdoor habitat. The chimps wasted no time exploring their latest vantage point.

Volunteers Carol York and Kristine Byars painted the outside of the building with a flower-patterned mural. They painted the bottom half of the building with chalkboard paint, so the chimps can customize it with their own chalk art. (The chimps have enjoyed finger-painting on paper for years.)

“Kitty is the artist of the group,” says Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch director Ben Callison. “Midge loves to paint as well, and he is so proud of his paintings that he crumples them up in a ball and hands them to you. His eyes light up when he hands one to you. We just smile and congratulate him for doing so well.”

Volunteer or become an intern at one of the care centers»

Keep up with Lulu, Midge, and Kitty and their habitat improvements on our Facebook page. Find out how to help chimpanzees still in laboratories at humanesociety.org/issues/chimpanzee_research.

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