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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Chimp on Chimp Violence: How to Avoid Bloodshed

When they carted Sally Boysen's chimps away to the sanctuary without consulting her, two reasons were given. One: she had failed to secure funding to pay the overhead of keeping the chimpanzees. Two: having too many male chimps creates a danger of "chimp on chimp" violence. They made it sound as if they were taking the chimps away to protect them from themselves and each other. They made it sound as if their concern was "humanitarian." Never mind that it resulted in the death of the males. But is there any speck of truth in this pretext?

Well, as with all stereotypes, there is some truth behind the generalization. For instance, see what happens sometimes in zoos, here.

If chimpanzees were always better off with their own kind, this kind of thing would never happen. But the explanation that this sort of thing happens because they are, after all, "wild animals" also does not hold much water. Every time some third world dictator is killed by a usurper, is that because human beings are, after all, wild animals? Or is this the universal will to power?

I'm going to get Bow a bride, not a male rival, but even in this, we will have to exercise extreme caution, and I hope to adopt his bride when she is still  a very young infant, so that I can enculturate her, too. I also plan  for them to know each other well in advance of being able to mate. If I introduced Bow to an adult female who  is a complete stranger, it might very well result in violence.

At the outset, there will be no males to rival Bow within his family  group. But  Bow once told me he wants to have seven sons. If he has even one son, what are the odds that the younger male will one day make a power play that will leave the Oedipus story as a pale imitation of life in comparison?  To the extent that we instill different values in Bow and his bride, that is the extent to which it is possible to nullify the Oedipal prophecy. Just remember, the Oedipus story is the story of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Aren't all prophecies like that?

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