Thursday, March 3, 2011

Our Primate Relatives....

For this blog I am going to share pieces from two incredible voices for other species.
First the bad news then the sweet news....

4300 primates are being held captive at the Oregon National Primate Lab. At least 50 of them are part of an obesity study there.
From Marc Bekoff's blog: The monkeys are fattened up by giving them lots of rich, fattening food, and kept in small cages so they can't have any exercise, as if this sort of regime is going to tell us much about human obesity. Monkeys don't normally eat like this and are very active so the way in which they're treated is thoroughly abnormal and severely compromises their well being. It's highly likely that they're stressed and researchers are concerned about how stress compromises the reliability of the data they collect. So, even if one doesn't care about how these monkeys are treated, indeed a frightening thought, we should all be concerned about whether the data are relevant to the questions at hand. Some of the monkeys will also undergo gastric surgery and be euthanized, a sanitized way of saying they're killed so that their pancreas and brain can be examined.

Now the sweet story.....
Some of you know Rick Bogle from his tireless work with the Primate Freedom Tour.  Others know his work with Alliance for Animals in Madison.  
Rick told me this story when I was in Madison and I was so moved, I wanted to share it with you.  Included are photos from the hotel and sanctuary where the story took place:

The cages at the hotel where Pepe, Jackie, and Becky were kept for 30 years
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         "In 2000 and 2001 I served as a volunteer at Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Sanctuary in the central highlands of Cameroon.

On my first trip, there were only three adult chimpanzees there –
chimpanzees whose long term confinement in separate cages had led
veterinarian Sheri Speede to abandon her practice in Portland, Oregon and move to Cameroon. After meeting them, she had made a promise to them that she would return and find a way to rescue them.

They were being kept in a row of three cages. The chimpanzee in the middle cage could touch the other two through the bars, but the two on the ends could not touch each other. I wasn’t there to witness their move from the hotel where they had been kept for nearly thirty years, to their new quarters at Sanaga-Yong, but I heard that these three chimpanzees, when finally together, two of them being able to touch each other for the first time in three decades, just couldn’t stop
hugging each other.

I got to know these three chimpanzees fairly well. There were two
males, Jackie and Pepe, and Becky. At first, they were housed in a
very large sort of house-cage, maybe forty feet on a side and maybe
fifteen feet high. Eventually they also had access to forty or so
acres of climax rain forest.

I sat for many hours grooming and being groomed by Pepe. We would sit in front of each other with the bars between us. The bars were far enough apart that we could reach easily through to give each other a hug. Pepe would let me search over his body and would turn around to let me comb through the hair on the back of his head and neck.  I would look through his hair, or clean the dirt from under his nails. He would let me look into his mouth, in his ears, and seemed to enjoy being touched.

Then he would do the same to me, searching through the hair on my
head, through my beard. He would gently pull at my eyelashes. He would pull my pants legs up and groom my legs. Sometimes he would pull my shirt up and explore my stomach and chest, and then turn me around to examine my back.

The bars between us gave me some security. Chimpanzees seem to have a more volatile emotional response to the world than we do. If Pepe was in a particularly boisterous mood, I was able to sit near-by without risk of him grabbing me a bit too roughly.

Sometimes, we would tickle each other. Pepe loved for me to tickle
him, and he would tickle me back, sometimes a bit too chimpanzee-like for my comparatively weak human body. But it was all in good fun.
Once, when we were both laughing and digging our fingers into each other, I jerked my head back and one of his finger nails scratched me across the nose and causing me to bleed rather profusely. It was a
complete accident.

For the rest of my stay, whenever we would groom each other, Pepe
studiously avoided the wound and eventual scab, an odd thing because any wound is always of the greatest interest to chimpanzees grooming each other. I can’t know with certainty, but Pepe seemed to know that he had wounded me, and by ignoring it, he seemed to be expressing some remorse or maybe a little guilt.

On my second trip to Sanaga-Yong, there were an additional maybe two dozen young chimpanzees, all rescued from the market or from dismal captive situations. The nursery for the older children was an electric fence enclosure of about five acres that included a building that was divided into sleeping quarters for the chimpanzees and a separate very small room for a volunteer to sleep in.

There were six very high energy young chimpanzees there when I
visited. I slept in the nursery. While I was there I was a nursemaid
to a young putty-nosed guenon who slept with me. In the morning, when the boisterous kids next door started rustling around, I would get up and take Monkey (a creative name) to a cage while I fed the young chimpanzees.

I made formula and pabulum for them which I served to them in plastic cups when I opened the door to their sleeping quarters. It was always pandemonium when they ran out looking for their cups of morning cereal.

The electric fence around the enclosure was about ten feet high; the
strands of wire were spaced about four inches apart. After eating and
throughout the day, one of the chimpanzees would approach the fence and touch it very briefly, obviously checking to see if it would still hurt them. After they ate, I would sit with them for a few hours as they chased each other in and out of the trees.

One of the young chimpanzees had an odd habit that he indulged every morning after breakfast, while everyone else was running around. Hewould gather little pieces of wood and small stones and arrange them. If it had been a human child doing this no one would have doubted that he was lost in some make believe world of his own. This is exactly what it looked like to me, and precisely what I thought he was doing.

Eventually one of his play mates would charge through and scatter his toys and he would join in the seemingly endless melee.

I learned to be careful when I was sitting with them. I sat with my
back to the building or the fence to avoid being ambushed from behind by a thirty pound ball of energy. They liked to use me as a sort of jungle gym and would climb all over me.

One day, after a wrestling bout with them, I was taking a break and
sitting with my back to the fence. They had decided to play among
themselves for the moment, and so I was sitting alone. My shirt was
soaked with perspiration, and I was winded from my workout with them.
In a lapse of attention, I leaned back a little too far and was hit by
about 9000 volts – the current pulsing off and on through the wires.

I shouted out and recoiled from the fence. I was immediately the
center of attention. The six young apes surrounded me – not interested in wrestling for a moment, but being very concerned and consoling, hugging me, and wanting to inspect my back.

It was clear to me that they had all been similarly shocked previously and were concerned for me. Their empathy for my experience and sympathy for my pain were obvious and appreciated. The moment lasted only two or three minutes but was one of sharing and concern. They made me feel much better.

A few minutes later one of them jumped on my head started pulling my ear again."

The young chimpanzee who seemed to have an imaginary world, Bikol.



Thank you Marc and Rick for your wonderful work for all species.

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