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(Termite Mound Construction)
After many design changes, Greg, our chimp keeper began construction on a termite mound that would satisfy the foraging nature of chimps. A frame made from #4 rebar and angle iron were welded together. Stainless steel tubes were attached so that they would be positioned inside the concrete.
A door which is flush with the surface of the structure was fitted in so the tubes could be filled with food by the keeper, from inside the mound. The back door opening can be seen above. Finding the right locking device which would be "chimp proof" posed a challenge. Two large bolts and a large lock secure the door. Wire mesh came next.
After careful consideration, Greg decided to use 4-5 inches of cement to cover the outside. Making the cement covering look like a real termite mound is important, so this part of the process is done very carefully. It took two applications of 2 inches of concrete. The last layer contained the coloring.
The finished product has a natural look and feel of stone, with 15 well disguised food tubes.
The back of the termite mound in the exhibit. The door is heavy gauge steel that has the hinges welded into place. A strong padlock is used.
It was very important that the door of the mound be flush and without any movement possible when locked. The inside corners have triangles of steel so that bolts can be used to help anchor the door.
A view of the inside through the open door.
The PCV food caps are screwed on to the stainless steel pipes. A piece of metal was welded on to each pipe to prevent them from rotating when the chimps foraged.
The PVC food caps are large enough so that they are not difficult to clean out.
Extra ripe bananas give the recipe for our chimp gruel a nice strong flavor.
In addition to the ripe bananas, the chimp gruel is made of semi-cooked oatmeal, peanut butter, honey and Hawaiian Punch.
The finished cereal mixture is then put into the tubes. The keeper will vary the number and placement of the tubes in the mound.
As you can see the keeper easily fits inside the mound. He will put a few sticks in the holes on the outside, so it alerts the chimps to the fact that they should try foraging. To keep the chimps interested in the mound, food is not put into the tubes every day.
The size of the tube is important. If it is too small, it will be too difficult to extricate the food with a stick and if it is too large, the food would disappear too quickly. This size seems to work just right. As you can see, there is nothing left from yesterday's foraging.