I ate chimp poo
My first day at Monkey World was probably one of the most bizarre (and scary) days of my life. Having worked with so many different animals, I was well aware of the dangers that could be present even with the cutest, cuddliest of species. I was not aware of just how dangerous this new position was going to be.
Chimpanzees are one of the most dangerous species on planet earth to work with. More keepers are killed by tigers because they often work in the enclosures and have direct contact with them. You would NEVER do this with a group of chimpanzees.
Basically, when you work with chimps, you cannot make mistakes and you have to be on the ball every second of the day. More about this later.
I met with one of my managers who was going to take me on an introductory tour of the chimp exhibits I was going to be working on. There were 60 rescued chimps from all over the world and I was about to be introduced to around 20 of them.
I was given VERY clear instructions (my first test) before entering the chimp area. I remember those words so vividly.
“Do NOT touch the chimps”
“Do not look at them”
“Just keep walking”
“Don’t do any talking”
“Be careful not to trip”
“Listen to everything I say”
I will admit, at that point I thought I was being led to Hannibal Lecter himself.
The chimp’s enclosures were a complicated web of bedrooms, outdoor areas, slides, gates and overhead tunnels. All of which I would soon have to know with my eyes closed (but NEVER close your eyes)
As I followed my boss inside, I took a deep breath like it may possibly be my last. I was warned that it would take a while for the chimps to get used to me and that it may cause a few disturbances with me walking through for the first time.
The first thing that struck me was the smell. It was very musty like an old man but much, much stronger. The noise was also intense.
As I made my way slowly inside, I could hear the chimps becoming aroused at this new activity happening. There were chirps and squeals, barking to almost a scream.
Every part of my body was on fire from nerves, excitement and probably sheer terror. I tried not to look at them in the eyes but I couldn’t help but notice the muscles and size of these very intimidating animals.
With each step I took, more chimps came inside to see what the commotion was about. Some were overhead looking straight down at me while others clung onto the bars of the enclosures. I was suddenly surrounded from each angle and all I could think was “don’t fall over”
I weirdly felt something wet on my head. I looked up and a chimp was pissing all over me. To make matters worse, he was holding on to his penis and following me while he pissed. Still, I did as I was told and kept moving forward and trying not to flinch.
I did notice my pace fasten when a rather large chimp looked directly at me and spat right in my eyeballs (this became my most hated part of working with them over the next few months) It was absolutely raw aggravation from them and I was now starting to see exactly why my instructions had been so carefully detailed.
Next up, the boss pointed out a chimp called Freddy as we passed another bedroom. I was so inquisitive that I just HAD to ask a question and as I opened my mouth, Freddy reached around to his bum, shit in his hand and proceeded in throwing it all over me, including in my mouth. Yup, I swallowed chimp poo on my first day. Not quite the initiation I was expecting. And if you’re wondering what it tastes like (I’m often asked) It was a mixture of poo and garlic! Yummmmmmm
Everyone around laughed hysterically and my boss said “Welcome to Monkey World” As we left the building, he did tell me that Freddy is prone to this sort of behaviour and they usually provide new staff with a plastic shield on their first day. Apparently on this occasion, he’d forgotten.
I was then told to go and have lunch and get myself cleaned up. Ummm ‘thanks but I’m not exactly hungry after that feast’
I was scared shitless (or shit FULL), my ears hurt from the noise, my instinct told me to run for the hills but I loved every second of it.
Welcome to the wild world of world of chimpanzees.