Jimmy wins a family

Posted in 28/03/2012

Sofia, Jimmy and Sara (GAP Project)


For more than six months we have worked every day at the Sanctuary to approximate Jimmy with other chimpanzees. First with Samantha, and then with her two daughters, Sofia, three years old, and Sara, two.

First of all, we should know the character of Jimmy, his mental disorders and anticipate their reactions. Anyway, we were working with someone deeply traumatized due to the life he had for over 10 years in a tiny room in a super crowded zoo of animals and people.

Samantha and her daughters are normal primates, who practically never suffered at human hands and were created by us. Weeks ago, Samantha approached Jimmy and they spent several days of the month together; on the other days, she would devote herself to her group, Guga’s, and to their daughters.

In the next step – the most delicate one – we should bring him the babies, because he has repeatedly demonstrated that he liked them. Firstly we opened the window that divided the rooms so they could interact through their hands. Later, when this step had been overcome without any aggression, and Samantha showed no fear of the contact of her daughters with him, we passed to the physical approximation. It began with Sofia, with her mother’s presence. Sofia is very naughty, hits and bites Jimmy, and he does not react. On contrary, he follows the play. On the first day the integration was great.

Sara kept on observing everything from the hall, but we were afraid to put her with Jimmy, as long as Sofia could react, afraid that he could do any harm to her sister.

However, last Sunday (March 25), we decided to put them together. Samantha did not react when we opened the door and let the two babies getting into Jimmy’s room. Sofia, who plays Sara’s mother a lot of times, attracted Jimmy’s attention for her repeatedly, in a way to protect her sister. A few minutes after they were put together, Sara was over Jimmy, hitting him lightly. Jimmy did not care and Sofia gained confidence that nothing bad could happen and began to play with Jimmy, incorporating Sara in the fun. Samantha watched closely all the interaction without showing any kind of fear.

Jimmy went to the center of his room and they followed him. There was a moment that Sara was beside him and there was affection. At that time I realized that that relationship was consolidated.

That night the family slept together. Sara and Sofia embraced in Jimmy’s room, Samantha near them and Jimmy in the house outside, as usual, since he suffers from claustrophobia and only comes into bedrooms for a few minutes. He is terrified of being locked up, as he was in a small space for years.

Jimmy won a family. And what a family! We do not know if he hang on all the activities developed by these two babies during the day, but I’m sure that the dark ghosts of his past will now be buried forever.

Dr. Pedro A. Ynterian
President, GAP Project International

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