Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Random Book, Random Passage #8

I didn't think it would happen so soon but random shelf, random book actually yielded a duplicate already, so I redid the book selection and got My Friends The Wild Chimpanzees by Baroness Jane Van Lawick-Goodall (the book was published in 1967 while she was still married to Baron Hugo van Lawick).  This is a slender hardcover volume with a bunch of beautiful color plates. I think I got this as a birthday present when I was living in Madison, WI. My memory is not so great. From page 75:

Nor do the adult male chimpanzees always sit huddled and passive in the rain.  Sometimes when the first drops hit them they begin a display, wildly and rhythmically swaying from foot to foot, rocking saplings to and fro, stamping the ground.  This spectacular performance we call a "rain dance."

Chimpanzees may also respond in the same way to a high wind and to a particularly stimulating social situation, but it is typically their reaction to a sudden downpour.  On two occasions I saw group performances of these rain dances. The first will always haunt my memory.
That I'm fascinated by apes and monkeys is no secret.  It would be hard to explain why beyond the obvious.  We have a cousin, out in the wild, an animal "other" that is very human upon closer inspection.  It is very possible that they will be extinct in my lifetime.  And it will be humanity's fault.  We're killing (and eating) the species, of all the animal kingdom, with which we share the most recent common ancestor.  Their greatest champion over the last 40 years has been been Jane Goodall; her descriptions of the family life of Flo, Flint and the other chimps in Gombe will always haunt my memory.

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