My Favorite Things
|• Feisty||• My Baby Doll|
|• Loyal||• Dried Fruit|
|• Goofy||• Unsweetened applesauce|
Henrietta was probably born in the 1960s, possibly in Africa, but her true date and place of birth are unknown. All we do know is that Henrietta was sold to The Coulston Foundation in 1985 by a lab called Buckshire Corporation. Within months of her arrival, Henrietta was placed in the breeding program, meeting male after male after male, but never becoming pregnant. Eventually it was discovered that she had endometriosis and abdominal adhesions, which likely prevented her from getting pregnant. This diagnosis did not prevent her from being assigned to a biomedical research study in 1992 on a drug called clofibrate. Why this drug was being studied in chimps is unknown; the drug had been FDA approved for use in humans years before, but had also been shown in the early 1980s to have dangerous side effects in humans.
In 2002, Henrietta’s life changed quite dramatically when Save the Chimps gained custody of Henrietta and the more than 200 other chimpanzees of The Coulston Foundation. Today Henrietta lives in a large family group called Kiley’s Family.
Henrietta’s Baby Doll
Last month, Henrietta began to have a heartwarming affinity to a particular piece of enrichment provided to her family. The chimps regularly receive blankets, stuffed animals, cardboard boxes, bamboo, and other exciting things to make their indoor areas enriching and fun. We received a donation of toys, and among them was a very small human-like stuffed baby doll. Henrietta doesn’t often pay attention to stuffed animals; she prefers lots and lots of blankets to weave elaborate nests instead. But for Henri, this toy was different; since she first spotted it, she has not let it out of her sight.
Henrietta’s love for her human-like baby doll came as a bit of a surprise to us, because Henrietta has never had children of her own. According to her file, Henrietta was placed in the breeding program while she was in biomedical research, but was unable to become pregnant due to severe endometriosis. However, her attention to her new “baby” shows that she has motherly skills and feelings. She grooms and kisses it, and even appears to try to nurse it. She also plays with her doll in the same way many chimp mothers play with their infants: lying on her back, lifting her baby up with her hands and feet, and bouncing or jiggling the doll. Since the doll doesn’t hang onto Henrietta like a chimp baby would, she tucks the toy between her thigh and belly—a space known as the pelvic pocket where chimps store objects they want to keep handy—and shuffles a bit awkwardly (but adorably) out to her island.
Witnessing Henrietta’s love for her doll reminds us that donations of toys are so crucial to the chimps’ well-being. Who knows what new item will inspire the chimps next!
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