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So you want to work with Bow?

Updated on June 22, 2011

So you want to work with Bow? You've seen the ad for a caretaker or an intern. You've always wanted to get to know a chimpanzee personally. You have lots of experience working with animals. You think a career in primatology is right for you. You have a sense of adventure and are eager to broaden your horizons.  You are up for the challenge. If all of the above applies to you, then here are some things you should know.


Rural Life

This is a volunteer position. You'll have a place to stay, but it is far from any form of civilization you may be familiar with. On your off hours, you will have easy access to fishing, canoeing, hiking, horse-back riding and bird watching. However, if you are the sort of person who goes clubbing every night, who likes nice restaurants and the diverse entertainment of a major city, you are not going to be happy. There is going to be major culture shock. You will want to turn right back and go home. Save us both the trouble. Don't apply if you can't live the rural lifestyle.

Project Bow Spring 2007 Intern Carrie Stengel relaxes with Bow
Project Bow Spring 2007 Intern Carrie Stengel relaxes with Bow

No Big Name Appeal

Some people apply for volunteer positions because they want to learn something new, experience a different aspect of life and to help a cause they believe in. Some people apply for volunteer positions because they think it will look good on their resume or they hope to meet celebrities.

Project Bow has no institutional affiliation. Putting it on your resume has no special cachet. It might even hurt you in certain venues. Not everyone approves of what we do.

Bow is not a celebrity. Neither am I. You are not going to meet Jane Goodall here. So if your goal is to make major connections with people who can help you later on, you will not achieve that here.

Apply if you really want to do this work. This is not about social networking. This is about hands-on experience in ground-breaking research. Be an unsung hero. Join our team.

Respect the Rules

Here are some of the rules at Project Bow:

  1. Don't hurt others. This means no biting, no scratching,  no pushing, no hitting, no damage to clothes or personal articles.
  2. Don't pee or poop on the floor. There is a potty for that. This includes staying on the potty until you are done.
  3. No standing in the doorway and preventing a person from going through.
  4. No destroying man-made objects.


Okay, the above rules are mostly for Bow, but they apply to you, too. If you're going to be a part of Project Bow, you have to agree that these are good rules. Bow likes to set people up for conflicts. Unless you agree to these rules, there is no point in applying for the position.

What we don't want to hear is: "He's only a chimpanzee, so he can't be expected to understand the rules." Bow is pretty smart. He knows the rules. He is perfectly capable of obeying the rules, and he understands that without these rules, we would have total chaos. He also knows that some people are suckers for a helpless chimp act. He can smell a bleeding heart a mile away.

If I ask him why he violated one of the rules, his favorite answer is: "I'm just a chimp."

If you think this is a good excuse, you need to apply for a different program.

Respect Bow and Demand the same Respect from Him

Bow is shorter and smaller than we are, but he is much faster and stronger. In the case of a disagreement with Bow, the last thing you want to do is to get into a physical fight with him. You are bound to lose, so don't even try it. It is better to walk away from a fight. If the situation seems impossible, just leave.

Nevertheless, you can't avoid all confrontations with Bow. You can't allow him to walk all over you. You have to earn his respect, as well as his trust.

The first test Bow will put you through is the leaving test. If you don't pass this test, then you will get no further. It is a very important first step to establish that you are allowed to leave when you choose.

How do you establish this? It is mostly a psychological battle. Use your voice and your body language to show your ranking. Bow will step aside and let you pass.


In any confrontation with Bow:

  • Don't engage in a tug of war over an object. Order Bow to drop the item. Use your voice, not your hands.
  • Don't scream at Bow in a high pitched voice. Lower the pitch of your voice and create a bigger body image by working with your posture.
  • Don't let a small infraction of the rules pass without consequence; this gives Bow permission to break more rules.
  • Don't bargain. Walk away. The rules are not negotiable. 

Topics of conversation

Don't get fixated on apples if Bow wants to talk about pears.
Don't get fixated on apples if Bow wants to talk about pears.

Good Friends

Project Bow Summer 2007 Intern Eden Michaelov and Bow share a moment outside
Project Bow Summer 2007 Intern Eden Michaelov and Bow share a moment outside


Bow loves to be tickled
Bow loves to be tickled


A conversation is not a multiple choice exam. This means that neither person knows in advance what the other is going to say. We don't assume that there is a right answer to any question.

How would you like it if you had this conversational experience:

Other Person: "How are you doing today?"

You: "Fine."

Other Person: "That's right! You are feeling fine! Good Job. Here's a reward."

Or suppose you answered: "I'm not feeling that great today."

And the Other Person said: "Sorry. Wrong answer. Try again."

Wouldn't you think that the Other Person was insane if he treated you that way? And yet that is the atttitude of many beginning interns to their conversations with Bow.

Suppose you've put out an apple on the table and ask Bow what he would like to eat. Suppose he says: "An apple." Don't jump in with "That's right! Good Job!" That's insulting. By the same token, if he answers: "I'd like a pear," don't respond with: "Sorry. Wrong answer." Maybe he does want a pear!

In a real conversation, you don't know what the other person is going to say. Stay open to what Bow is really saying, and you can have a relationship, where each party learns from the other.

Getting to Know One Another

Bow doesn't talk to strangers. When you first come in, he will not say much. You have to stay in a relationship with him. He will test your loyalty. He will want to see if you bail out at the first sign of trouble. Only after he's sure that you are there for the long haul will he open up to you. It's well worth the wait!


The Project Bow Homepage


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    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks

      Thanks, Maita. Yes, we have had interns many times before.

    • prettydarkhorse profile image

      prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US

      I see you've done this before, Nice one Aya. I commend your effort for Bow..Maita

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

      Thanks, Sally's Trove! I'm glad this makes sense to you. These are the rules we live by, and when adhered to, they really do work to keep the communication flowing and everybody safe and sound.

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      This is a brilliant segment of a job description. In my field, corporate communications, where passive language is too often the rule, I'd love to see more descriptions written so honestly. For example, "We write according to strict guidelines. Once you master our style, your boss will fire you if you step outside the rules."

      Aya, thanks for pointing me to this Hub. There's much we humans ought to learn about interacting with each other while learning how Bow and people relate.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

      Meredith, thanks for your interest. New ads for positions with Project Bow appear periodically on Primate Jobs. Keep an eye out for the next one. If it still seems like something you would like to try after you have read all the requirements, then I encourage you to apply.

    • profile image

      Meredith 7 years ago

      This sounds like such a wonderful opportunity!!! I have always wanted to work with great apes. I currently work with children with autism and many of the tips and rules you gave for working with Bow are rules i follow when working with the children.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

      Adorababy, thanks for your comment. In case you are interested in applying for our internship, the ad is here:

    • adorababy profile image

      adorababy 7 years ago from Syracuse, NY

      This is actually my first time to know about "Bow the chimpanzee". I have always wanted to work for volunteer organizations because it always makes us feel that we have done something better for the world.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 9 years ago from The Ozarks

      Katie, thanks for asking! There two openings at the moment:

      1) Summer Internship


      2) Caretaker

    • profile image

      Katie 9 years ago

      What are the requirements for becoming a volunteer? Educational and otherwise? I have always wanted to work with chimpanzees, ever since I was a little girl!

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 9 years ago from The Ozarks

      Cmoorecole, thanks for sharing your experiences. It is wonderful to be able to spend time with a chimpanzee!

    • profile image

      cmoorecole 9 years ago

      I worked with chimps for 2 years at the Oregon Zoo back in the late 1970s. The zoo was home to 6 orphaned, rejected or donated juvenile and adolescent chimps, including a former lab chimp and a former sideshow chimp. Their enclosure was horrible and funds weren't available yet to give them an enclosure with some access to the outdoors. They needed places to roam, play, browse and get out of the public eye without having to go indoors. Eventually, they did get such an enclosure and, as far as I know, the project closed.

      Our project was called the Chimpanzee Enrichment Project, because we only sought to make their lives something closer to what they needed, given that they were far from their natural environment. We taught them ASL simply to see how they would respond to it, use it and, I suspect, to impress the media and potential zoo donars. Some research went on, but was not the purpose of the project. We tried to spend as much of their free time as possible playing in secluded woodlands behind the zoo and out of the public eye.

      This was one of the most fulfilling and enriching times of my life. 30 years later, I still want to be with chimps. I love the way they approach life, love the way they communicate when you break through in a chimp/human relationship (sometimes, just sitting together in a tree, in silence, spoke to me, as I realized I was sharing a friendship with someone few people will ever know what that feels like or what it means). I felt, at the time, as though I might help to discover new and amazing things about the chimpanzee mind, but mostly, I loved getting them out of their gawdawful cages so we could sit in the sun together, hike in the woods or pick blackberries.

      I still remember how chimps feel to the touch and how they smell (yep, I love chimp smell) and sometimes I still dream about them. I wore my training scars with pride for many years until they faded.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 9 years ago from The Ozarks

      Yxhuang, thanks for the link! From there I was able to see all sorts of public television programs from Taiwan. True nostalgia!

    • profile image

      yxhuang 9 years ago

      Aya: I know "Fruity Pie". You can visit their official website to find some online games and videos here:

      The site is Chinese only.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 9 years ago from The Ozarks

      Ngureco, thanks for your comment with special inside information about chimpanzees in the wild. You are so lucky to live in a country where there are wild chimpanzees. I'm sure it's not difficult to tell a man from a woman. They look different, act different, smell different and wear different clothing. Chimps are really smart. Telling a man from a woman is not a problem for them. Bow even knows what part of my cycle I am in, even though I do my best to hide it.

      The volunteer positions here are equally open to men and women. I'm not saying that Bow doesn't react differently to the different sexes. He develops crushes on female volunteers. He looks for a father figure in males.

      Yxhuang, wow, thanks for offering the Teletubbies tapes. When I was in Taiwan I taped an episode or two, though I was more focused on a local program called Shui Guo Nai Nai. However, now we have no access to new things, so yes, it would be great to have the whole Teletubbies series. I will email you later. Thanks!

    • profile image

      yxhuang 9 years ago

      Hey Aya. I have a set of Teletubbies in Chinese version (not very good copy but with fluent Beijing Mandarin and Chinese subtitles. My sister in law bought for my older son when we visited China long ago). Now my kids are no longer watching Teletubbies so maybe Bow can have them. Since he can watch original Teletubbies in America so he will be familiar with the characters and stories. It would be fun to study how Bow reacts to his familiar TV program with different language. Perhaps he can pick up some words.

      I think Mulan might be a bit difficult to Bow.

      I need to dig out my storage room to find these VCD. If you want them let me know. I don't know how soon I'll get them but I would love to give them to Bow. (Email me your shipping address.) ^_^

    • ngureco profile image

      ngureco 9 years ago

      Thanks, Aya Katz. I hope you’ll be able to get the right person for this position.

      I was wondering if this position is right for either men or women. I ask this because in my country we have many wild chimpanzees and they seem not to like human females – they rule women with impunity. How they are able to differentiate that this is a woman and she is “weaker” is something I don’t know. These groups of chimpanzees will harvest your bananas as women watch them and there is nothing women can do to stop it.

      All the same I think this job must be very interesting and enjoyable. If I was closer to your place, I would have taken a long leave and give it a try.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 9 years ago from The Ozarks

      Yxhuang, thanks for the offer! In fact, I did want Bow to learn Mandarin, and when he was little, he was exposed to it. June Sun and her daughter were house guests here a couple of times, and they spoke to Bow in Mandarin. But I wasn't able to get volunteers who spoke Chinese on a regular basis. So Bow likes Chinese food and can use chopsticks (sort of), but when he watches Hua Mulan in Chinese, he doesn't understand a word of it. He knows that some people speak Chinese. We've talked about that. But he also knows that he doesn't understand what they are saying.

    • profile image

      yxhuang 9 years ago

      I would love to meet with Bow and maybe I can teach him some Chinese phrases, such as "You are a beautiful lady." and "I like you." Those are very important sentences for most boys who learn beginning foreign language, according to my husband.

      Good luck Aya. ^_^

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Any time Aya :)

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 9 years ago from The Ozarks

      Jerilee, that's funny about the husbands. Actually, there are times when Bow reminds me of some lawyers I had to deal with. I may take you up on your offer, concerning grant writing. I am looking at a possibility of applying for a private foundation grant this year.

      Misty, good to hear from you again. I may yet call on you for more advice concerning the island I want to build for Bow.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      I so wish I were single, financially independant and could apply for this position Aya, I would be in my element and would find a position like this enthralling, fascinating and educational. It is an opportunity of a lifetime for the right candidate. I hope you find the right person :)

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 9 years ago from The Ozarks

      Hot Dorkage, thanks! It's good to have some support. Actually, most of my volunteers have been excellent and have contributed greatly to Bow's development. It's the ones who come with serious misconceptions and then leave prematurely that need this kind of hub.

      It sounds as if your dog Violet really appreciates music! I once had a dog who would get very upset if people sang off key.

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 9 years ago from United States

      A younger me would have coped well and thrived in primatology, which is one of many reasons I'm one your biggest fans here and love reading and learning about Bow's world.

      Had to giggle though, some of the rules are one's that definitely should have been set with a couple of husbands and a few others in my life years ago. Of course, then some of the requirements, like knowing to stepping aside, clearly applied to me.

      Seriously, if there is ever any way that I can be of assistance (pro bono) in any marketing or promotion of Project Bow, don't hesitate to email me. I've done a bit of grant writing, etc. in addition to the market research hats I've worn.

    • hot dorkage profile image

      hot dorkage 9 years ago from Oregon, USA

      Good luck Aya Katz with this one. I can't believe you have to say those things. I can't believe that people would really do those things. They would have to be utter numbskulls. If I were to do it I would treat Bow like a human teenager. That's what he acts like, from all your descriptions. Even my dog, whom I am sure is not as intelligent as Bow, deserves to be treated with respect, and I know she has emotions and preferences. For example, every time I play the piano, Violet comes running in and curls up under the piano. Any other thing I'm doing, she comes up to me and snouts me to pay attention to her and is generally annoying. But on the piano, she lets me play in peace and curls up. She doesn't sleep. Her expression is very alert. Why would she do that? It is not particularly warm or cozy under there. Do you suppose she enjoys the music?


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