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It’s Remarkable They Don’t

For a couple decades now, I have been exchanging articles about monkeys with a few of my good friends. You may be asking two questions. First, what do I mean by monkeys? When I say monkeys, I am including apes, which includes gibbons, orangutans, and gorillas. I try to be accurate with this. It appears etymologically to sort of be a square is a rectangle but not all rectangles are squares situation.

Your second, more likely question: Why? Do I need a reason to be into news articles about monkeys? Fear not. Like much of this life, it can be trace back to the events of the beginning of this century. The events of September 11th, 2001 spiraled into a global war on terror. Which led to a war in Iraq. Which was conducted with something that was referred to as a “coalition of the willing.”

(Where is this going? Don’t worry. I’m not spilling into some sort conspiratorial mess.)

Within this 48 country coalition, it was reported that a Moroccan newspaper had reported the Moroccan government was offering 2,000 monkeys to act as land mine detectors. Photos of monkey’s holding sniper rifles were circulating on the internet. A reboot of Planet of the Apes had been in theaters. Whiplash the Cowboy monkey was in the news. Like much of this life, things don’t seem to usually trace back to one thing.

I thought it was “important” to maybe start paying a little more attention to what the other primates were up to. Paranoia? Sure. But what was the real monkey business of the world? So, whenever I came across an article about monkeys, I would share it. And occasionally, I would receive the same in my inbox in kind. One of my favorite quotes came of out this exchange of monkey articles.

“If you think how easily a baboon could rip you apart, it’s quite remarkable that they don’t.”

~ Jenni Trethowan

Take that in for a minute. That quote is from a 2006 article about gangs of baboons who were raiding the homes of the wealthy neighborhoods in South Africa’s Cape Peninsula. With its juxtaposition against the rest of the language in the article, its imagery, and undercurrent addressing power and restraint, Trethowan’s quote struck me. It’s one of those things that we might not often stop to ponder. Like, if you think about how heavy a rain cloud is, it’s amazing that it seems to float in the sky. Man has been to the moon, but we don’t know why hiccups occur.  

More amazing to me, is that in my search to find the quote containing article from 2006, I also found that the situation is still ongoing. Trethowan is now locally known by some as “the baboon lady.” And things have intensified. A patrol lurks and uses paintball guns to pelt any baboons that are getting out of line. A man killed a baboon, which along with nine other baboons, had invaded the man’s home and attacked his wife.

And after reading Kimon de Greef’s article, (which I highly recommend even if you’re not in it for the monkey news) I was again struck by the words ofTrethowan. She is quoted in the article, but says that what she is saying is actually what Eric the Baboon told her to say to Jane Goodall. “You are a wasteful species. You are wasteful with your emotions, with your things, with your knowledge” ~Eric the Babbon via Jenni Trethowan.

You can call her crazy if you like, but I tend to believe her. And I must admit, that in my own household, I am referred to as “the Nerf guy.” This nickname stems from the time I attempted to stem the chipmunk infiltration into our Vermont cabin by firing my son’s Nerf dart bow at the culprits chattering at me from the backyard oak tree. I have a do no harm policy in a world where conflict seems to easily present itself. But then again, it’s not my house they are raiding. It’s not a simple problem.   

In the end, I’m left with my lived truth – coexistence is hard. Monkeys and humans, humans and humans, who is invading and who is the invader? What I am really rooting for is peaceful resolution. And in a world of click-bait headlines mixed among stories of war, conflict and famine, there are still stories out there about places that are much different than our own particular situations that are both fascinating and may hold lessons and questions that help us address our own unavoidable task of coexistence.     

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