Jimmy is not alone anymore

Posted in 27/12/2011

Samantha and Jimmy (GAP)

Some people say that magical things happen in Christmas time. After four months of unsuccessful attempts, Jimmy left his loneliness behind in Christmas Eve. He accepted the companionship of a young female chimpanzee, who has been was close to him since he arrived at GAP Sanctuary of Sorocaba in July.

Jimmy lived in a circus until he became an adult and was not useful anymore for the show. He was then taken to a zoo in Rio de Janeiro state (Zoonit), where his life became a hell.

Jimmy is a non-typical chimpanzee, even in the way he walks, most of the times in two legs. The other chimpanzees find him different, which causes more curiosity and some fear of his part.

Samantha, who is 13 years old and is already mother of three daughters – the youngster one is Suzi, who is six-month old -, always had a good relationship with males. She is a small, thin, quick and brave, with a not so easy going personality, especially when it comes to humans, from whom he wishes to be far away. I received her when she was one year old and she practically sees me as an alpha male of the group of twelve chimpanzees that started the sanctuary 12 years ago or as a father.

She trusts in me and whenever I ask her to do something she obeys. The task with Jimmy was not easy. He did not know chimpanzees and was afraid of them. He had spent the last three years in a 70 square meter cage and another seven years in a tiny 20 square meters enclosure, which turned him to be disturbed. Jimmy is obsessed by women wearing rubber boots. This usually happens with chimpanzees in circuses and zoos. The keepers teach the males, just for their fun, to masturbate with the visual or physical contact with a boot. Jimmy ignores a female keeper with tennis, but the ones in boots cause an erotic obsession that leads him to masturbate in the blanket he carries everywhere.

For Samantha, the challenge is huge. To face the traumas of a disturbed mind and try to solve them. Firstly we made them have physical contact through the fence and windows: Samantha, her eldest daughter, Sofia (two and a half years old) and I in one side; and Jimmy in the other. Jimmy demonstrated an immediate attraction for Sofia, who teased and played with him. Then we took away Sofia for a while and let him only with Samantha. I asked her to enter Jimmy`s enclosure and to get near him. She was always very afraid, but never denied my request and made some attempts.

Jimmy is apathetic. He does not react as a regular male chimpanzee, who frizzes his hair and does aggressive gestures when is not happy with a company or situation. Samantha used to go after him, but he ignored her. She stayed close, to analyze his gestures and look. This is the way primates get to know each other and get well.

A few minutes after she ran away and asked me to take her out of there, and immediately I took her out. I could not ask more of her, as long as in a possible fight, she would get very hurt.

This approximation process lasted a few months and was done twice or three times a week. Once I put Carolina, a ten-year-old female also raised in the sanctuary and taller than Samantha, but very kind and with experience in how to deal with males. She tried a few times, until she decided she would not do it anymore.

I was almost giving up. But at Christmas Eve I decided to do the last attempt. I asked Samantha to enter in his enclosure again. She was more audacious, get very near him and asked me to get out. I asked her to try again when Jimmy was in the bedroom, a place where they had never met before (the meetings were always happening in the open areas). She entered again and Jimmy surrounded her. She was in heat and was afraid that he could bite her buts. Jimmy started to interact with me through the fence; she got near and did the same. I had one hand with Jimmy and the other with Samantha. In a moment Samantha changed my hand for Jimmy`s arm and started to do the grooming. Jimmy did the same. I took my hands out and let both know each other by touching. In a very brave move, Samantha turned her back and offered herself to him, and sat in his lap.

Maybe Jimmy did not understand that gesture as a sexual appeal, as long as he probably had never had sexual intercourse with a female. But the movement of turning the back to another chimpanzee is an usual friendship sign among primates. In this moment I left both alone. Samantha was secure and would not need my help anymore.

We took Sofia, who was spending a few time with her mother, to live for a while with her sister Sara (one and a half year), so the couple could enjoy their privacy. We opened the two enclosures for them. Samantha ran for her enclosure, which has a big footbridge that all chimpanzees love, and Jimmy followed her. They are together since them.

The isolation of Jimmy is over! Samantha will teach him a lot of things of a chimpanzee life. She is sacrificing to help him and we can not ask more of her. She has three daughters to take care and her original chimpanzee group, with whom she is very happy.

She knows what she is doing. In our conversations, in our language, she will tell me what she will do to help to recover Jimmy and bring him back to chimpanzee reality, from where he must never had to be taken out. The only certainty we have is that Jimmy will not be alone anymore.

Dr. Pedro A Ynterian, President, GAP Project International

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