Peley And Foaf in the wild forest, Bossou, West Africa
Is it possible to introduce plants into the chimpanzees' enclosure and keep them for long period of time?
Absolutely yes! We have been working hard to create enclosures that resemble natural habitat in a miniature scale. Trees are one of the most important elements of chimpanzees' habitat. Although it is quite hard to keep outdoor enclosures lush and verdant, it is well worth trying.
A chance to observe a variety of natural behavior highly increases when there is well established lush vegetation established in the enclosure. Not to mention that chimpanzees living in a naturalistic environment with a variety of plant and tree species, they can also enjoy picking and eating leaves, fruits, seeds, depending on the season. Well established vegetation including trees can occasionally serve as natural shelters during a fight.
It is important to select and chose the right species for tree planting. Choosing some robust plants that chimpanzees don’t eat, like sasanka, gymnospermous plants are essential. For example leaves of zelkova, oak, oleander, Indian lilac would most likely to be eaten.
Increase vertical space by building higher climbing structures. Once available, vertical space (climbers like towers) automatically become “protector” of trees in the enclosure. Wild chimpanzees spend more than half of their life above the ground. It is then essential to build a vertical structure. Efficient vertical space when available, chimpanzees use them a lot that reduces the need to be on the ground, therefore soil is less compacted, increases the chance for undergrowth.
Chimpanzees eat leaves, fruits, flowers and barks. Increase amount of time for foraging in order to avoid catastrophic damage. All plants should be planted at the same time, which reduces damage per plant.
Chimpanzees play with branches, pulling, hitting and breaking them. The roots of plants should be securely tied down by placing bamboo pickets into the ground. Create enrichment program using a lot of toys, provide straw, ropes, twigs, towels, blankets and so on in order to encourage chimpanzees' activity level.