Friday Funnies: Monkey-Business

While it is the human-like qualities of primates that attracts us to watch and enjoy them, it is the case that in rural Africa – at least the parts in which I’ve lived and travelled – they are simply considered as an interesting member of forest and savannah life that in some locales are eaten.

In the 19th century, primates begin to appear regularly in travel and exploration literature, with specimens (living, if possible) being taken back to Europe.  The following blog recounts some of the adventures with primates by explorers in the 19th century – as well as contemporary: Monkey Business – 19th Century and Now.

Today I want to explore a concept that has emerged over the last couple of decades with regard to primates in captivity: primate enrichment activities (see link for some literature on the topic.)

At issue – ways to enrich the lives of primates while in captivity.  And it is important, as I learned while in charge of a couple of chimps that the Hotel Club du Lac had acquired.  Keeping these two happy and entertained did require a variety of activities, including the kinds of foods fed (and when fed), and providing different items for play and amusement.  I was lucky to have working for me a former employee of Jane Goodall (when she had a chimp camp down the lake (Tanganyika) to south of us).

[I cannot find all of my primate pictures, but if you look at this link from the blog, you will se us moving the two young chimps to the wildlife sanctuary here in Burundi:  Relocating the Chimps.]

Now one thing that apes and chimps like are hammocks, and as seen in the following pictures they are indeed a favorite place to rest:



And then there are the little things – providing fresh bedding (pliant branches and straw) every night with which the animals make their nests for sleeping.  Dolls are another favorite (although they are quickly destroyed), blankets, paper, and other objects – see here for other examples.

There are a number of ways that food can be presented so as to be interesting – some examples are given here.  I found that popcorn, as well as whole (unshelled) peanuts were particularly liked, when spread around so that Dragon and his mate, Tina would have to search for them.

Dragon and Tina enjoying a popcorn snack.

Dragon and Tina enjoying a popcorn snack.

Special occasion activities are also enjoyed – here are some examples from a chimp sanctuary in the States:

Hide Objects in Bags: Enrichers place the enrichment items – for example toys, magazines, clothing, shoes) inside bags. They often place bags within other bags and then place the bags in the enclosures.

Covering Enclosures with Sheets: Human caretakers cut holes in the sheets and cover the enclosures with sheets and secure the edges. Enrichment objects can be placed on top of the sheets near the holes so that the chimpanzees can pull the items through the holes in the sheets.

Clothes Time: Human caretakers place a large selection of clothing inside of the chimpanzees’ enclosure. The chimpanzees … sometimes wear the clothing, nest with it and/or use it in play interactions such as tug-of-war and peek-a-boo.

Source: See the following site for more enrichment activities used by this Sanctuary: Friends of Washoe

Bonobos are a type of primate closely related to chimps, although they are larger and, perhaps, more docile.  David Livingstone, when exploring the area just to the west of us, in the Congo, had what appears (from his drawings) to be a young Bonobo during part of his explorations (his bonobo adventures are discussed in the above blog on the 19th century).

The following chart shows degree of relatedness of primates:

Primate family tree.  Source: Smithsonian

Primate family tree. Source: Smithsonian

The following video is a TED talk, given by Dr. Susan Savage-Rumbaugh who has spent many years working with Bonobos.  The comments following the video are interesting, as well.

I hope that you all are having a nice and relaxing weekend, as we are, here by the lake:


Articles you may find of interest – the first two are from this blog:

About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
This entry was posted in Africa-General, Chimpanzees, Explorers & exploration, Hotel Club du Lac Tanganyika2, Lake Tanganyika, Living here, Primates, Susan Savage-Rumbaugh and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Friday Funnies: Monkey-Business

  1. Pingback: In Uganda, Goats Go to Those who Retire from Hunting | Beth Cataldo

  2. Pingback: Wild Rice, Salt, and Navigation on Lake Tanganyika: 19th Century and Now | DIANABUJA'S BLOG: Africa, The Middle East, Agriculture, History and Culture

  3. The thing, facts which are briefly described about the South Africa Primates are funny and interesting. Description with the picture is also nice.
    breaking news south africa


  4. Pingback: No Laughing Matter | Christina's Corner

  5. ritaroberts says:

    Oh ! I do love this post Diana. I can see you enjoy your work and the Chimps look so happy and contented. Did you ever watch David Attenborough’s T.V. Series when working with Gorilla’s. It was a British programme so you may not have seen it. Perhaps you can get it on utube. What a wonderful job you do. I am going to explore all the contacts you have here. Thank you for sharing.


    • dianabuja says:

      Rita – thank you so much – and thanks for reblogging! No, I’ve not seen the Attenborough video but will look it up on utube. It is always nice to hear someone commenting on my various activities, as they can become just everyday-stuff. Have a nice weekend!


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