Nickname: Happy Genius
Gender: Male
Body Type: 170 lbs. Second largest chimp in the group.
Personality Type: Happy and Optimistic

Who is Jimiyu?

Jimiyi, or as we call him, Jimi, has to be one of the happiest, best-natured individuals we have ever met – chimpanzee or human. He loves to play – not an unusual characteristic to find in a baby chimpanzee – but even now as a young adult, Jimi still loves to play. It is not rare to see Jimi approach another member of our group in a loose and relaxed gait, bob his head or take a few running steps and look over his back to see if the other chimp is joining his invitation to play. But Jimi is more than good-natured, he is also very smart. We have seen his intelligence in various ways over the years we have known him. There have been times when an object that is not suppose to be in with the chimpanzees has nevertheless found its way into their enclosure, such as the time when a padlock was left in their home. A lovely new toy if you are a chimpanzee, but one that could hurt another chimp or even damage the windows if thrown. We needed to get the padlock – so we asked Jimi to bring it to us. Of course, we needed to give Jimi something in return – a fair trade so to speak. We got some grapes, showed him the grapes and asked for the lock. Jimi brought the lock to us and the exchange was made. It is not that the other chimpanzees are unable to do the same, but Jimi understands the request so quickly. More amazingly is if an item is in the exhibit is spotted by a keeper but is too far away to be pointed at, the keeper can ask Jimi to retrieve it by showing him an identical item – off he goes to find it and give it back. It is difficult to look at Jimi’s face and not recognize his intelligence.

Jimi was born at the Lincoln Park Zoo. He was raised by his mom and lived with his father and other members of the group. Due to a health problem, Jimi was removed from the group for medical care when he was about a year old. He recovered well, lived for a short time with a baby gorilla, who was being hand-reared by the zoo’s staff. We brought Jimi to the Saint Louis Zoo when he was 24-months-old in order to be a companion for Hugo, whom we were hand-rearing. We wanted Hugo to be exposed to more than just humans – we wanted him to learn about being a chimpanzee from other chimps. Our goal was to integrate Hugo with Mollie and Smoke, but Cinder's birth required we delay the introduction for an undetermined amount of time. Hugo and Jimi could meet and learn from each other and then the two of them could be integrated into Mollie and Smoke’s family.

Boys Will Be Boys

Jimi and Hugo took to each other right away, but Jimi was 15 months older than Hugo – a significant age difference in the life of a young chimp. Jimi was physically and developmentally more mature than Hugo. Hugo became increasingly upset by Jimi’s play behavior; he was just too rough for little Hugo! Even after we brought another baby chimpanzee, Mlinzi, to our Zoo, Jimi was still too much for the two of them to handle.

Truth be told, Jimi was too much for us to handle, we were unable to teach him manners. We knew that only adult chimpanzees could teach Jimi the social rules he needed to learn. When Jimi was 29-months-old, we introduced him to Mollie and Smoke and their two-month-old infant daughter Cinder. It was truly like magic. In ways we never could, and in ways that were not always obvious to we humans, Mollie and Smoke were able to communicate proper chimpanzee manners to Jimi. He was never allowed to play too roughly with Cinder and later, when Hugo and Mlinzi joined the family, Jimi had to behave under the watchful eyes of his foster parents.

Within chimpanzee society, males form strong bonds with each other. We see this in our group as well. Smoke, Hugo and Jimi do “hang-out” with each other and often solidify their bonds with long grooming sessions. Despite their bonds of friendship, male chimpanzees will compete with each other for dominance. Hugo is currently the dominant male in our group but there are times we have seen Jimi test his status. Hugo may well remain the alpha male of our group but it is also possible that relationships within the group will change over time in such a way that Jimi ascends to the leadership role. We can’t predict, we can only observe. And as we observe, we see over and over again that Jimi is an amazingly intelligent, big-hearted and happy individual.