Jungle News: February 2, 2003

EBI UPDATE by Lee Ward

Ebi has adjusted quickly to his new situation. He’s fully recovered from his cold, is active and appears to be healthy. He really took to his new space – particularly one perch with a view out the window, and another with a view of the kitchen where his “staff” (that’s me) prepares his meals.

The hammock puzzled him at first, though. This was clearly something new for him and it took a while for him to get the idea that this was a bed. At first he would take his blankets and curl up on the ground. He tentatively explored the strange device for a few days – dropping toys into it, tugging on the sides and eventually jumping in and out, but still he wasn’t sold on the idea until I switched the large, deep hammock for a smaller one. Problem solved! Now when Ebi goes to bed he can curl up in his hammock with his chin propped on the edge to keep an eye on the outside world.

We believe Ebi has been “species isolated” all his life--a monkey alone in a world of people. His attitude toward the monkey housed next to him seems to waver from “who cares” to “hey, watch this” showing off, banging toys and leaping off the ground. But so far most of Ebi’s overtures are directed toward the human primates in the house.

He’s usually fairly polite when interacting with people. He does get cranky sometimes when we put food in his feeder. We wonder if he may have been teased by having food offered and then taken away… or maybe he just thinks the waitress should be bald (ouch!). But usually if I give him a bite to work on as I fill the dish he calms down.

The watering rules are similar. I use a plastic drinking glass to fill his water dispenser, and Ebi insists on having a sip first. With one hand he pulls the glass toward his mouth, takes his drink, then gently pushes the glass away. Then I’m allowed to fill the container. To me, this demonstrates the line that, through mutual respect, we cross to enter each other’s world. It may sound silly, but I wonder if this is how Jane Goodall felt the day the chimpanzee touched her. This single act saying “okay, I’ll let you do that if you allow me to do this” makes my heart leap.

Ebi’s diet takes some extra effort, since his tooth extraction left him “chewing impaired”. I now suspect he’s not completely toothless – there may be one small tooth in the back of his mouth, but it doesn’t help much. He will not eat hard foods at all. Raw vegetables must be cut small and have the rind removed. Large monkey biscuits have to be soaked in water, but the small sized biscuits are acceptable to him – they fit into his mouth so he can suck on them to soften them himself. He’s also happy to munch on canned primate food.

That boy loves to eat, let me tell you!! Even after free-feeding on monkey food all day he’s very enthusiastic about dinner time, when the monkey chef (yep, that’s me, too) prepares him a gourmet meal: cauliflower (Ebi’s favorite), onions, broccoli, squash, zucchini, bell pepper (Ebi’s least favorite --watch those peppers hit the floor!), and tomato are regulars on the menu. Veggies are steamed or sautéed with garlic and spices, and some egg or fish for protein, and the meal is rounded out with raw cucumber and a bit of fruit. For dessert, Ebi enjoys nuts, shelled or pre-cracked. He still has to work hard on them, but seems to think they’re worth the trouble.

Ebi strikes me as being very intelligent; he likes to contemplate things. For example, his favorite toy is a plastic “rain stick” rattle. When it’s turned end over end, you can see the beads that fall through it, making a rushing, rain-like noise. Ebi beats this stick on the floor in the morning to let me know he is up, and often leaps in the air and slams it down when someone enters the room, as if to emphasize his presence. But one day I saw sitting down with the toy. He balanced it on one end and watched intently as the beads fell. When they stopped, he gently turned the stick again to repeat the process. Then he picked it up, banged it on the ground and walked away!

He really likes to hang on the ropes and swing in his house. He spins around and throws his head back with his mouth wide open. It’s like he is catching the wind like little kids do--and some adults also! He also enjoys interactive play, and has his signals to tell me it’s playtime. He turns himself upside down and reaches out for my hand. Then he will grab my shoelaces and try to pull me closer to him. When he draws me in, he takes my hand puts it on his head for me to shake it and gently “wrestle”. When I have to enter his home for cleaning, Ebi will cling onto my arm, begging me to swing him around. This can wear me out before he ever tires of it. Other times, he will get close to me and lay on his side, inviting me for a grooming session.

Still, although Ebi clearly wants a social life and is willing to reach out to a human caregiver, I know this is only a temporary situation, a transition to becoming a monkey among monkeys. His sudden, quick aggression and occasional belligerence--if I don’t feed him fast enough, for example, or don’t play long enough--clearly demonstrate that this sensitive, intelligent creature is not meant to be a pet. When he gets to Jungle Friends, learns to interact with other monks, gets to wrestle and hug and groom with others of his own kind, he’ll fully realize what I already know--that I (or any human) make a poor substitute for a monkey.

As of this writing (February 2nd) Ebi has not yet had his vet visit. Although our vet has experience with monkeys, he has not performed a vasectomy before. Rather than go for the simpler castration commonly done on pets, we opted to postpone the vet trip and coordinate consultation with an expert. Dr. Johnson-Delaney (another of my heroes that I hope to meet someday) was able to provide the needed information so the surgery could be scheduled.

This Wednesday (February 5th) is the big day! In addition to the vasectomy, we’ll do a full range of blood tests. It will take about a week to get the results back. So stay tuned for more Ebi news…