Oh Cecelia! I’m down on my knees, I’m begging you please!

img_0346.jpgWell these last couple of weeks I have not exactly achieved all I had hoped. this is for several reasons; Ghana is not the easiest place to work. In fact, you know that game frustration? where you get so close to the goal but at the roll of the dice go back several steps? I am pretty sure that game is based on working in Ghana. People keep telling me ‘its character building.’

But to be honest that is not the main reason I haven’t been able to finish getting the cage ready. The main reason is Cecelia. the most stubborn old lady I have ever met. The objective of getting all the walls meshed to safely integrate Rosemary meant that we had to close Cecelia and Lucy in one side of the cage. Usually this would take less than five minutes and maybe involve a banana or two, not two weeks, several staff and volunteers, blankets, yoghurts, stuffed toys, fruits, and careful planning. Cecelia did not want to move! Those of you who have worked with chimps for a while will know how to ‘speak chimp,’ there are several things that are easy to communicate through vocalisations such as;

‘nice to meet/see you’

‘what’s that?’


‘want to play?’


‘groom me’


unfortunatley there is no vocalization for;

‘Cecelia if you move to the other chamber I can bring your friend Rosemary back to live with you’

So we had to play it Cecelia’s way. Two weeks later,  with the help of two volunteers we managed to get her into the cage using positive reinforcement training. So work began! We finished meshing the walls and the welder came to make the locks safer.

Finally, to make sure this experience ‘builds my character’ even more, on the last day of meshing when we had a small amount left to do inside the cage, we go to open the door and realise the welder has welded it closed! I swear you couldnt make this shit up! So several days later, I can now finally say the meshing is complete!


Above: The door welded closed.

Those of you who know me well will know I don’t like people, crowds or loud music. So just to build even more character, Eid al-Fitr seems to be the only time of the year Ghanaians decide to visit the zoo. hundreds, if not thousands of unsupervised children flood into the zoo, spending their day shouting at the chimps ‘Jimmy roll, Jimmy roll.” Too make things even worse…


These speakers where stationed by the chimp cages blasting out Ghanaian music which always has way to much base and too many sound effects. The zoo did have staff stationed around the place to stop the little brats, but there wasnt enough staff to watch everywhere. This has meant that little work can be done on the chimp enclosure as I have spent most of my time telling kids to shut-up, stop bending over the stand off barrier, stop feeding the chimps ice-cream etc.

Since then we have put up fire hose in the enclosures (which the boys LOVE) and managed to get a water hole made in the girls cage. Will show you guys photos next week.

So, although I am really sick of saying this, I think Rosemary will finally be moved next week. Unless I roll the wrong numbers on my Ghanaian dice and move 6 steps backwards.

Due to Cecelia taking up most of my time the last few weeks I feel I should tell you guys a bit more about this lovely girl…


Oh Cecelia! 


What a lady! It seems only fitting I tell you a bit more about this stubborn old lady! Cecelia has been at the zoo for over 40 years! In the same cage. She has seen other chimps come and go from a distance but has spent the most part (over 30 years) alone. This isn’t the first chimp I have known who can be alone for over 30 years and then integrate perfectly with chimp friends, yet it never seizes to amaze me. Their resilience.

Despite her sad life, Cecelia displays the least amount of stereotypic behaviours as compared to the other chimps. Its hard to say why this is, I would personally say that its just her personality, like with humans we all have different coping mechanisms. Some are outward like pacing in a hospital corridor and some are more inward like daydreaming. Maybe Cecelia is a daydreamer.

Although she has held up my project by two weeks, there is something very charming about this girl’s sassiness. I mean, I can hardly blame her. We humans have taken away all her control and she doesn’t get to decide when she eats, gets water, who she can hang out with, she is in a small cage. So she says no to the one thing she can control- what chamber she is in. I just wish she was more easily bribable.



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