The Integration of Jack
In 2004, Jack was confiscated in the Cameroon town of Nanga Eboko, where he had been held as a “pet” for 3 years. He was malnourished and small for his age, which we estimated to be 4 years, and he exhibited heart-wrenching stereotypical behavior. From a sitting position, he rocked back and forth constantly.
At Sanaga-Yong, Jack loved the attention of his caregivers, and we soon introduced him to 5 other juveniles. He learned and grew stronger with them, and, in 2006, we integrated them all with adults Kiki and Chouki. All was well for several years, but as Jack and the others matured into adolescence, Jack became less and less comfortable in the group. He wasn’t skilled socially and spent most of his time alone. Without any support from the other chimps, he began to challenge alpha male Kiki and often antagonized other males in the group. Eventually, after his arm was broken in a fight, we moved him from the group. Our attempts to get him into two other groups failed.
In 2015, we completed a new enclosure for Jack and eight other chimpanzees. The eight included two adult females, two adolescent females and four juveniles, of whom Kanoa was the only male. We thought it would be an easy group for Jack, but it proved to be a difficult integration. Jack remained solicitous of interaction with his caregivers and liked to play with Kanoa and Margot, another of the juveniles, but he refused any interaction with the other six chimpanzees. Some of them tried to be friends with him, and he shunned them, while others were terrified of him.
We knew that Jack’s happiness depended on him making it with this group, so we decided to be patient. We took it very slowly, allowing all the chimpanzees to interact with each other safely from within their large satellite cage chambers and rotating chimpanzees in the forested enclosure. Jack could go in the forest every other day with only some of the chimps.
Finally, earlier this year, our patience paid off! Jack had begun to affiliate gently with all of the eight chimpanzees through the cage mesh. Also, the youngest juveniles had grown up and weren’t so vulnerable as when they were younger. In March, we decided it was time to try them all together in the forest. And it worked!
Today, Jack is a member of a cohesive group of nine. He grooms and plays with all of them, and they’re all comfortable with him. He still loves it when the caregivers spend time with him, but he seems happiest with the other chimpanzees! It’s one of the great things that happened at Sanaga-Yong in 2019!