Nickname: Smarty Pants
Gender: Female
Place of Birth: Puerto Rico
Personality Type: Intelligent and Confident

Who Is Tammy?

Tammy is truly one of the most remarkable individuals we have ever met. Her extreme resilience and positive attitude have given us a dramatic demonstration that, like humans, chimpanzee personality is a combination of nature and nurture.

Tammy was born January 14, 2002, at the Parque de la Ciencias, Puerto Rico. The zoo's staff removed Tammy from her mother over concerns that she had not suckled. She was raised by the staff and received a great deal of love and attention from her human caretakers. When she was able to run and climb on her own, she was provided with a jungle gym in her outdoor cage. Tammy’s mother died before she had a chance to meet her, but she did meet her father and half brother. Tammy was taken to an area near the males’ cages and allowed to play. The males watched with interest and eventually Tammy became familiar with them, allowing the males to tickle her through the wire.

The zoo staff wanted Tammy to be socialized but realized they did not have an appropriate family group into which she could be introduced. Zoo officials contacted the Chimpanzee SSP to ask whether Tammy could be placed in another zoo. Several AZA institutions that had the facilitites, staff and appropriate chimpanzee family including the Saint Louis Zoo, were identified as a potential candidates. The final decision was up to the Parque de la Ciencias staff and they selected the Saint Louis Zoo to be Tammy’s future home. We sent an ape keeper and one of our veterinarians to Puerto Rico to meet and spend a few days with Tammy before bringing her to St. Louis. Happily, Tammy took to the keeper right away (and vice-versa!).

New Life in St. Louis

When Tammy was only 18 months old, she left everything and everyone she knew to begin her new life. We were with her to help ease the transition but, in truth, even when the reason for transferring an infant is to improve its life and future, the event is traumatic. When Tammy arrived her first home was the Zoo’s veterinary hospital. All primates that come into our Zoo must go through a quarantine period for their own safety as well as the safety of our animals.

It was Tammy’s reaction to all the changes in her short life that stunned and awed us. It is pretty normal for such drastic changes to cause an infant to become extremely clingy, withdrawn and even depressed. Tammy was nervous but not panic-stricken. Brought into her new home, she sat near keepers and calmly looked over her surroundings before she began to investigate. She tested the hanging ropes and hammocks, played with her shiny new toys and ate the food we offered her. Her composure was astonishing. Even more amazing was that she was not only composed, she seemed to be enjoying herself.

Meeting the Chimpanzee Family

After her quarantine period, Tammy was moved to the Jungle of the Apes. Once again, she was exposed to a whole set of new experiences; she had, after all, never seen gorillas, orangutans or a group of noisy chimpanzees! And once again, Tammy reacted with intelligence and composure, first assessing the situation and then gradually exploring. Our chimpanzees were across the hall from Tammy and jockeyed for the best position to stare at the newcomer. In between examining her new home, Tammy also looked over at the family and we were delighted that she did not appear overwhelmed by seeing so many chimps at once.

W e took our cues about how fast we should proceed with the introduction from Tammy. Once again, the keepers comforted Tammy by spending the entire night with her. She was so remarkably calm, we moved quickly to the next stages of the introduction. First we moved the family into closer proximity, then directly next to her but separated by a plastic, see-through door. Tammy was not afraid to approach the clambering group of chimps that were staring and gesturing at her through the door. Tammy remained interested and unafraid. With all the experience we have had introducing young apes to adults, we had never come across such a self-possessed individual.

Our plan was to first introduce Tammy to our adult females and because her attitude was so good, we proceeded to the next phase: allowing limited physical contact with the females with only a wire mesh wall separating them. Tammy was completely free to meet Mollie, Cinder and Mlinzi at her own pace. Unafraid, she touched and poked them after which she engaged in tickle games whenever she was in the mood. Tammy was clearly telling us she was ready to live with other chimpanzees. Mlinzi showed the most interest in Tammy and because she had practiced her mothering skills with her younger foster sisters, we had confidence in her abilities. Only four days after bringing Tammy to the Jungle of the Apes, we separated Mlinzi from the others, quickly stepped away from Tammy and opened the door between the two chimps. Without hesitating, the two girls approached and hugged. Never before had Tammy been in full contact with another chimpanzee and from that moment on she would never be denied that pleasure again.

Tammy is now fully integrated into our chimpanzee family. She continues to amaze us with her confidence and social savvy. We can't help but wonder what role she will take on within the group as she matures into an adult.