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Reinforcing the Chimp Hierarchy

Reinforcing the chimp hierarchy and challenging group members is integral to a happy, balanced chimp community. Here are some of the ways the ABQ BioPark Zoo helps reinforce or rebalance the chimp chain of command.

Set a defined schedule and alter it once in a while to help with bonding. This encourages chimps and act together as a family, re-bonding the group in the process.

Alternate available sleeping areas to help with bonding and problem solving. Changing their nighttime sleeping options inspires the group to cooperate and reorganize themselves to decide who sleeps with whom. This is another bonding and problem solving opportunity for the group.

Reinforce the hierarchy by giving juice in order of the rank of members in the hierarchy.

Change the feeding routine to help rebalance the hierarchy. Each morning, all the chimps get fruit. Usually everyone gets the same amount, but when the hierarchy needs to be rebalanced, zookeepers spread fruit all over the habitat—the chimps have to decide who gets what.

Use a power object. If the hierarchy is already balanced, zookeepers can use a power object, like a frozen cantaloupe, in the habitat. Zookeepers also give all group members a treat they’ll enjoy, such as popcorn.  The chimps will use the power of manipulation to get some cantaloupe and this activity reinforces everyone’s role in the group.