Jackson: Terrible Twelves

Jackson: Terrible Twelves

Jackson is the youngest male chimp here at the Sanctuary. At 12-years-old he is right in the middle of adolescence and it shows. With chimpanzees you get the “terrible twelves” rather than the “terrible twos”. When I first began my internship four weeks ago, Jackson greeted me less than cordially. He reacted as he does with most new introductions: he charged the bars as I passed, splashed water on me, or even spit. As an intern, I live here at the Sanctuary and get to see the chimps every day, and most of them became accustomed and friendly fairly quickly. But Jackson took a while to warm to my presence. I could usually count on being splashed, or having something dropped on me from the aerial tunnels, at least once a day.

But things have changed between me and Jackson in the last few weeks. I began to recognize Jackson’s moods and the body language he uses to manifest them. I learned to respond to the back-and-forth rocking that comes before a negative interaction (like spitting), with the side-to-side swaying that indicates a desire to play. Our inauspicious encounters soon became good-natured meetings that usually result in a game of chase. Jackson loves to run the length of his enclosures, glancing over his shoulder to make sure you’re following him on the other side of the mesh. Now when he sees me, Jackson reacts excitedly and immediately initiates a game. I know, I know – we’re not supposed to have favorites…but Jackson is quickly becoming one of mine.

– Zeya, Intern