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Celebration galore as chimps Bobby and Paulina clock 50

Bobby and Paulina are said to be two of the oldest living Chimpanzees in Nigeria. The female Chimps recently marked their 50th birthday in style…

Bobby and Paulina are said to be two of the oldest living Chimpanzees in Nigeria. The female Chimps recently marked their 50th birthday in style surrounded by children of primary schools, their care givers and staff of the Jos Museum Zoological Garden and dignitaries. Interestingly, some of the dignitaries have, as young kids, visited the two chimps and their late husband Peter who died over a decade ago.
However, Bobby and Paulina share a cage for years and living peacefully since the death of their husband. Though the chimps may seem to have shared a similar life, their size and temperament are some of their distinguishing attributes. Bobby is bigger and taller as well as friendlier. She is also described as an extrovert by the garden’s Zoologist, Gumbias Adamu, who said Paulina is “an introvert with a little temper.”
Chimp Bobby also lost her only daughter Rahina and grandchild to an ailment associated with diarrhea about six years ago. Right now Bobby and Paulina join three other chimpanzees to make the five surviving chimps at the   museum.
The chimps were brought to Nigeria from Congo sometime in the 1960s. The Marketing Assistant in the Zoological Garden, Peter Abraham  said “Bobby came with Peter while Paulina came separately. They were all very little when they came and the person who brought them knew their age so we started calculating their age from the said date.”
Adamu said   the chimps are intelligent and well aware of their environment to the extent that one can jokingly ask Bobby to show off her breast. “If you go and say Bobby can I touch your breast, she will come closer and bring it for you, but Paulina is quiet. However, when you are bringing food they know it, so you hear them shouting in excitement.”
To mark their 50th birthday, a committee was put in place to raise funds for the grand event which is said to be first of its kind in Africa. Sadly, most of the anticipated donors failed to come through at the last minute and the committee had to make do with the little resources sourced. With the little funds available, Bobby and Paulina’s cage was painted in green and white and a cake   baked in the same colour.
Abraham said   “with all the decorations in top gear, the chimps sensed something was happening, because their cage was painted in the Nigerian colour of green white green and they saw all the decorations and the crowd. Whenever they see crowd they know something is happening. We were also filled with anxiety, because we were not sure if people were going to turnout for the celebration, but by 10:30 am, we had a full house as people of all ages who trooped in to celebrate with Bobby and Paulina.”
He added that “We did it in such a way that the cake was brought close to their cage and they extended their hands to hold the wooden knife.”
One striking thing about the chimps that little children readily remember is their excitement when visitors present them with little treats. They usually extend their hands through the wired fence in gestures for treats and they are usually rewarded with groundnut, fruits or biscuits by visitors. Perhaps what endears Bobby and Paulina to people is their intelligence and striking human characteristics. Even the typical Nigerian attitude of begging has gradually crept into the apes whom sometimes typically place one hand over the other to engage in the art of begging when surrounded by visitors.
Adamu explained that “they usually do that when you come visiting empty handed.” However, just like any wild animal, the chimps are also known to sometimes show their displeasure when they ask for something and are denied or when they simply do not like a visitor. “If they don’t like you or they are angry with you they can spit on you or gulp water and spit it out on you. You know their saliva is like that of human beings so by spitting on you they are showing their displeasure with you or sometimes you see them hitting their head with their hands,” said Adamu.
Aisha Haruna Gyaran, a seven year old student of Hikmah International School, Jos also said she witnessed first-hand as “the bigger chimpanzee was angry with a female visitor when we went to the zoo; she excreted in her hand and tried to shake the woman but the visitor moved away.”
Since chimps usually eat what other humans eat, Bobby and Paulina didn’t miss out on their birthday cake after it was shared. “They also ate the cake” said Abraham. “We usually feed them twice a day, with a breakfast that consist of all kinds of fruits such as banana, oranges, groundnut and even cucumber while their lunch is made up of boiled sweet potatoes and beans,” he explained.
The Director, Monument Heritage and Sites, Dr Aero Biodun, who graced the occasion, revealed that the life span of Chimpanzees was 60 years for those confined and 45 years for those in the wild. For Bobby and Paulina who have clocked their menopausal stage, their life in confinement has given residents of Plateau and other visitors’ decades of fun and excitement and it is almost impossible to imagine the zoo without them. “Certainly, it’s been 50 years of gracious living, drama, and the Jos zoological garden wouldn’t be the same without Bobby and Paulina,” said a visitor.

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