Ike was born on June 6, 1994, at LEMSIP, a former biomedical research laboratory in New York. Like many chimpanzees bred for research, he was separated from his mother at birth and raised by humans, along with other chimps, in a nursery-like settings. Ike bonded closely with the other infants, especially Noelle and Rodney. These three learned to comfort one another by huddling together in a “train”—stomach to back—when frightened or under stress, as they had no mother to turn to.
As they’ve matured together here, they no longer race into “train” formation if upset; instead, they comfort one another with such conventional means as outstretched arms, hugs, or mouthing behaviors. As Ike has grown into a strong young adult, his confidence has also increased. He seems to know that as Donald (the dominant male) ages, his chances are good for claiming that top position. His standing is further bolstered by the younger females, many of whom support him. It is fascinating for us to watch as the young chimps reach adulthood and the social dynamics shift. We’re particularly anxious to see if Ike, the second-oldest male, does indeed claim the dominant position, or if Rodney or Cory challenge him.
Ike’s athletic build, tall stature, and 140 pounds of pure muscle make him an intimidating presence (in the wild, the larger male chimps typically weigh 90 to 100 pounds). He is often uninterested in interacting with the caretakers or other chimps, but is sometimes observed “testing” the strength of the caging by pounding on the bars with his long arms to make his presence known.