Our care staff at Save the Chimps work tirelessly to make sure our residents receive top-notch care in their retirement. And while staffs’ days are filled with cleaning they still make time for play.

Many people ask if we have physical contact with the chimps. We do not have physical contact with our residents for several reasons. First, they are many times stronger than an adult human and could potentially cause serious injury, whether intentional or not. Also, we do not want to risk transferring any harmful zoonotic diseases between us and them, it could risk their health and well-being.

With that being said, there are still many ways our staff safely interact and build relationships with the chimps. Staff utilize something called a “tickle stick” which is a 2ft long piece of rubber hose that acts as an extension of ourselves.

Watch Timmy groom a staff member with a tickle stick

Tickle sticks allow care staff to safely groom with the chimps, play tug of war, and as its name suggests tickle them! When we hit those tickle spots just right, the chimps let out their unique breathy laughter. The chimps also love a good game of chase, a nice painting session, and just watching their care staff be extra silly.

Just as play builds friendships from human to human, and chimp to chimp, it helps strengthen bonds and build trust between the care staff and our residents. We have some chimps that love the company of humans and elicit play throughout the day, and we have others who prefer the company of their chimp family. What’s really rewarding is when small attempts at play or grooming end up creating special and rare moments with those chimps who aren’t always so keen on human interaction. It’s those little moments of hearing chimp laughter, earning their trust, and watching them live their best life, that makes working at Save the Chimps such a rewarding and wonderful experience.

Sable holding a tickle stick to play with her Caregiver
Nigida’s play face denoted by a droopy bottom lip and covered top teeth
Cheetah playing tug-of-war with a rope toy