THE PLAYFUL APE
When a baby chimpanzee is born he is wrinkled and skinny like you were when you were born. He has a white tuft of fur which he loses as he grows up. Do you have white hair on your behind? He doesn’t have any tail either. His arms are very long. They are longer than his legs! Are yours? Do you know that a baby chimp likes to play games? In fact, he enjoys playing enjoys playing many games you do!
A baby chimp rides on Mommy’s back after he is born. He will ride piggy-back until he is five or six months old. He begins to walk on all four feet at that time and Mom lets him play in ‘nursery groups’ with the other baby chimpanzees. That is like your baby brother being put in a play-pen!
Mother chimpanzees sit and watch their babies playing. You know, some big sisters and girl cousins do this too! Sometimes, the baby chimpanzee will play ‘drag the branch’ with branches from the green trees, but other times he likes to play ‘wrestling, tickling or tug-of-war,’ just as you do. He will play until it is time for lunch.
For lunch, the baby chimpanzee will eat fruit, caterpillars and termites. Why are you turning your nose up? That’s yummy food! Well, chimps love it. Sometimes, the baby chimpanzee has some juicy leaves, seeds, nuts or some meat. Like all babies, he will have to take a nap after lunch. Just like you, he does not want to do this. He wants to keep on playing with his friends!
After his nap, it is time to play again! The baby chimp plays under the trees until bedtime. Just as you do, he does not want to go to bed. He wants to keep playing!
Older chimpanzees don’t have to stay in the ‘nursery groups’ like the baby does. They would much rather play ‘chase’ by running through the green grass and swinging through the trees on hanging vines. That’s like a big brother not wanting to play with you, isn’t it?
At 5:30 it is bedtime. Don’t you think that’s kind of early? Mom makes a bed in a tree for herself and her baby. She makes the bed by folding down green leaves and branches. The young chimpanzee will sleep in the same bed as Mom until he is four-years-old! The next morning, he awakes to another day of playing.
The next time you see a chimpanzee in a zoo, you will know a few things about him. You will know that he enjoys playing some of the same games you. You will know that he likes to eat bugs and other yummy things. You will know he doesn't like bedtime either. If you are quiet and still, you might see him being ornery, just like you!