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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bow Blows His Nose

I was in the outer pen with Bow this afternoon, and he saw me texting. Observing what I was doing, he tried to select one of the letters in the touchscreen keyboard, too. I was of two minds about this. I really didn't want him butting into my conversation, on the one hand, but on the other hand, this is exactly the sort of behavior I want to foster in him, to prove that he is literate.

 As it happened, when I let him try, the letter he selected did not actually register. I'm not surprised, because it is taking a lot of practice for me to master this new form of communication, too. It's not as if I can type whatever I want to with no struggle, Half the time it wants to correct everything I type and turn it into something else. And the other half, I can't seem to hit the letter I meant to type, but miss and get an adjoining letter.

The odd thing is that this smartphone is so smart, that it is now learning to anticipate what I meant to say using  the Hebrew transliterations of EKTB EOBRI. This is good for ease of communication, but really bad for using a phone to prove that someone can spell -- someone like Bow.

So far, what Bow is really using his hands to do with the iPhone is to mime what he wants me to do with it, but then leave it up to me to actually press the key hard enough so it will register. So it turned out he really didn't want to text. He wanted me to go back to the main menu, and from there to the camera.  He pointed where he wanted me to press, and then I pressed. It's almost as if he is being a gentleman and asking me to do what he wants, but not demanding it. What Bow really wanted to do is take some more selfies.  And then he wanted to go back in, and he took my key and tried to turn it in the lock that leads to the inner pen, but he didn't try very hard, turning it back over to me, so I could open the door for him.

And then we were in the airlock, between the outside and the inside, and Bow decided it was a good time to take a few more selfies.

Then he took the kleenex that I had tucked into my shirt and started to use it to blow his nose.

He blew his nose very loudly. And then he gave me back the used tissue.

Bow knows what to do with an iPhone, a key and with facial tissue. But in many cases he would rather mime the usage that actually do it himself .

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bow by Candlelight

It's been a very cloudy day. Lawrence is away for two weeks on vacation, so even though it's a Wednesday and my birthday, I'm here in the pens as usual.  In the afternoon, I saw some beautiful pink flowers on my walk.

They have burst forth suddenly all over our pasture, but I don't know what they are called. A little later, some roses arrived for me by FTD. The delivery man could not get his van into my driveway, so he had to walk down the long internal road on my property to bring them to my front door.

About then, we had one of those unexpected power outages. Because it has been cloudy all day, it became very dark in the inner pens without artificial light. I didn't know how long the outage would last, so I lit some candles, in case we would have to endure long in the dark.

Bow does not like fire, so when I brought one of the candles into the pen, he immediately tried to blow it out.

I tried to move the candle further away, but eventually Bow succeeded in blowing it out. The power came back on soon thereafter.

I think Bow looks nice by candlelight. He is a chimpanzee for every era. He knows how to turn off a power switch, but he also can blow out a candle, if necessary.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Price of Freedom

Our life is really good. For me and Bow, our ten acres are plenty good enough, and we don't actually need more. Just maintaining the status quo is all we really want.

Bow has a nice breakfast every morning, takes the time to enjoy it, and eventually he asks to go outside. The sun, coming at us from the east, as it always does, backlights Bow in our early morning snapshots. There is much to see, and Bow takes it all in.

All day long, Bow goes in and out many times a day, enjoys three square meals and a snack, drinks lemonade with blackberries in a glass goblet.

In the evening, when Bow goes to bed, I venture out and chase rabbits and look at the sky over our overgrown pasture.

When the sun finally sets, it does so due west of us, as regular as clockwork.

Could anyone ask for more? Is there more to ask for? The only thing I would want is more of the same. Much more!

We are fine right now, but I am on a fixed income, and  the money that is already there and is mine is being stolen by inflation. This means that every year that same money will buy fewer bananas and apples and grapes. Someday, it may even not be enough to pay the taxes on the land that I own outright, with no debt to anyone. And that worries me.

It does not worry me as much for me and my daughter as it does for Bow. In three years, I will have raised my daughter to adulthood. She will be fine. She will go out into the world and learn to make her own way. I have every confidence in her.

In thirty years, my life expectancy is up, according to the actuarial tables. I suspect that I may outlive that prediction by five to ten years, as I have led a rather quiet life and have not put my health at risk as much as most people. But either way, the actuarial tables are a good estimate of when the journey will be over for me.

And then there is Bow. Not just Bow, but Bow's future line. I want them to live on forever after me. I want that to be one of my contributions to the future of this planet.

The people at the sanctuaries are watching and waiting. Every once in a while they send a recruiter. They want to take Bow. They want to display him to the world and say that they "rescued" him. "Is it too hard for you yet?" they ask. "No." "Well, it will get much harder soon." One person who says he has had thirty years experience with chimpanzees predicts gloom and doom for me and Bow.

But the private owners tell a different story. After about forty years, a chimp tends to mellow out. Taking care of the older ones is actually easier. It becomes less of a struggle and more joyous.

Still I want companionship for Bow and children and grand children, and yes, that would cost a lot. And what it would mostly cost is that awful thing that ever since WWII we are not supposed to admit we want: Lebensraum! Room to live in. Lots and lots of land, thousands of acres per capita.

People say they do not like factory farms. Yet they make it impossible, through regulations of smaller farms, through harassment of private ranchers, like the Bundies, and by regulating dairy products and confiscating cheese, for anybody but large corporate firms to own land to farm on in more traditional ways. They say that they want to help the homeless, but when homeless people start camping out in the national parks and living like hunter-gatherers, they send their Federal troops to dispossess them. They say they want to help chimpanzees, but really if any chimpanzees took up a more natural life on American soil, I bet the conservationists would go after them as an "invasive" species to be eradicated.

Recently, a large plot of land, consisting of over five thousand acres has gone on the market here in Missouri. It used to be several different ranches, but the ranchers' way of life had been destroyed by the laws and regulations that activists favor. The land has a rich history, for it contains Native American burial grounds. But people who give lip service to the Native American lifestyle seldom campaign for the repeal of current laws that make it impossible. The first thing that would need to be repealed would be property taxes.

An incomparable property offering crystal clear spring fed streams, forests, massive bluffs, large caves, fenced and cross-fenced areas for livestock, wide-open ranges and picturesque views, hundreds of miles of riding, hiking and ATV trails, lecture, store, chapel, 1000 horse stalls, 300 campsites and more.

The land features beautiful vistas and acres upon acres of virgin land.

The asking price? Eight point three million dollars. I don't have that kind of money. Neither does anyone that I know. It occurred to me to start a Kickstarter project to purchase the land for Project Bow to make it into a primate sanctuary. But I don't think that any of my well-wishers or all of them together could come up with anywhere near the asking price.

People who are interested in purchasing my books often decide not to because they are too expensive:

It looks like it is expensive. But her earlier books, also expensive, look good. 
I wish that my library had these, but two extensive county library systems did not respond to her name.
My well-wishers are not wealthy people. I can't have unrealistic expectations about what they can give. So I need to count my blessings and make do with what we have, which is admittedly very good. But if any of those pesky recruiters for the sanctuaries comes around and says he wants to "help" me and Bow, I will ask him to buy that property for us. That is the kind of help we could use!

In order for chimpanzees to be self-sufficient, they need plenty of land. Food really does grow on trees and bushes and it does hop about grazing on  the natural plant life. But if chimpanzees are not allowed to own lots of land and are deprived of Lebensraum , then the next best thing for chimpanzees is to cohabit with humans who buy them food in the supermarket. And what we need in order for that to continue to work is for there to be fewer laws and regulations and less taxation and inflation. What we don't need is activism directed against cattle ranchers or independent farmers. And what we especially don't need is a public campaign against primate ownership.

for the recipe follow this link

My philosophy is live and let live. I don't go after people who have a different lifestyle from mine, and all I really ask is that others do the same. Our life here is good. May it continue so.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Dessert for Bow

My mother left this morning, and Bow was sad to see her go.

Bow missing Grandma
When my mother arrived this time, among the many other things she brought us was a can of poppy seed filling. So I took the opportunity yesterday to  bake a poppy seed cake, not from scratch, but in the way that I have found makes the closest thing to a from-scratch poppy seed cake that I know. The recipe is here:

Bow was very involved in the process of preparing the cake. He even licked the bowl and the big wooden spoon.

I made two cakes, and here is what lunch looked like yesterday:

Bow's lunch

The humans among us eat less fruit and more meat, so the proportions are different, but we are all eating the same food, more or less, with minor variations.

When my mother left this morning, Bow watched as the airport shuttle took her away and drove into the unseen distance. He was sad to see her leave, but he knows he will see her again -- for Thanksgiving. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Visit from Grandma

My mother is visiting here this week, and Bow is enjoying the time with his Grandma. She brought him a gift, consisting of crackers from Israel, dried figs, assorted nuts and peanuts. When Bow asks for one of these treats he spells out "מתנה מסבתא" or "gift from Grandma." Even though he knows the names of the individual treats, he refers to them collectively that way.

Bow likes to talk with my mother, to look deeply into her eyes, to make faces at one another and to chase.

When they are done chasing for a while, Bow settles down for another session of face to face communing.

Bow likes to look at my mother's house shoes, and he is fascinated by everything she has, including her watch, which she showed him. Sometimes my mother and I start to talk about other things, and then Bow listens, and when I ask him if he has anything more to say, he spells:
תני לסבתא לשחק
"Let Grandma play."
And then they play some more.

Bow has had many people in his life over the years. He remembers them all. But there is a core of closer people who keep coming back, year in, year out. Those are the people that Bow can trust. They are family. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Enjoying the Bounty

Bow is curious and interested in all things. He sometimes takes off my glasses and examines them very gently and then returns them to me. He has electronics, including his own computer, and he can use them. But he doesn't have to. If he chooses not to, that choice is respected.

Freedom of choice is the key. This is true of electronics as well as people. It's not what gadgets we have that determine whether we are happy, but our own ability to turn things on and off at will. It would be terrible to have a television set that you could not turn off or a roommate that you could not ask to leave when you needed to be alone. It's the lack of privacy and the absence of choice that characterize a true prison.

Sometimes I just wish I could put a dome over all ten acres of my land, so that Bow could enjoy it freely. Our life is pretty good. We don't need more. We just need a better way to take pleasure in what we already have.

The blackberries are starting to ripen, and the deer and the rabbits are raising their families here. I have been seeing a lot more wildlife on my property than I have in years past. Sometimes I tell myself that I am simply more observant than I was before, but that may not be the whole story. If there is more pressure on the wildlife elsewhere, they may be coming here seeking asylum.

Yesterday I picked blackberries and brought them to Bow in the outer pen to eat.

Usually, when I bring Bow blackberries, he picks them out of my hand one by one and pops them into his mouth.

But this time he was impatient, so instead he brought his mouth to the blackberries.

He put his lips over the bunch of blackberries in my hand and siphoned them gently into his mouth.

It took  very little time.

Before I knew it, the palm of my hand was empty, and Bow's mouth was full of blackberries.

And then Bow leaned back and relaxed and enjoyed a fistful of blackberries swirling around in his mouth all at once.

Someday, I'd like to see Bow free to wander out there among the blackberry bushes, picking the ripe fruit by hand or by mouth, whichever suits him best.

The other animals on my land are currently enjoying free run of the property. There were two rabbits in particular yesterday that I saw all over the place, romping around and hopping from place to place. They were inseparable.

Even when they knew they had been spotted, they stayed stock still and let me snap their picture.

In the evening, at twilight, after I returned from taking the garbage to the dump, a family of deer jumped over my internal road from the pasture to the lawn and from there into the woods. One of them was smaller than the others, and they actually stopped to let it catch up. But I was not able to get a picture, and just then some rabbits hopped in front of my car on the way from the lawn to the pasture. I had to slow down to let them pass. My property is becoming a high traffic area for wildlife.

As I approached the garage I saw those two inseparable rabbits again, and I got out of the car to film them. The dogs, who are not as free as the rabbits, were barking in protest.

I think that my land can appropriately be seen as a wildlife sanctuary, not because any legal action has been taken to label it as such, but because the wildlife see it that way. A sanctuary is a place where one seeks asylum by coming there of one's own free will, and where one is free to leave also, when one wants to. A sanctuary is not a place to which other people have decided you have to go and  from which you cannot escape once you get there. That would be more like a prison.

Children and  owned dogs have less freedom than rabbits. Dogs have to stay in their master's yard, which is the price of being cared for. Sometimes, strays do have more freedom. My eyes were opened to this when I lived in Taiwan. I admired the strays of Tamsui. The price of freedom, of course, is that no one is looking out for you. But the price of being "safe" is that you have no freedom. This is also the difference between a domesticated and a wild rabbit.

Are you domesticated? Or are you free? Which would you rather be? Every individual has a different answer. Each has a different path to tread. We can no more force someone to be free than we can hope to domesticate someone who does not wish to be.

Can Bow decide where he wants to be once he grows up? I would like to think that he will be able to make that decision. But whatever decision he makes, it should not be irrevocable. Human grown ups make mistakes, too. Sometimes they take a job that they do not like. Sometimes they enter a marriage that turns out to be not so viable over the long term. Sometimes they buy a house that they cannot afford. The good thing about being free is that you can quit your job, divorce your spouse, sell your house, and even move to a different country if the regime in your own country becomes too oppressive. Mistakes can be corrected. The rabbits and the deer, the turtles and the snakes are free to come here, but they are also free to go.  Doesn't a chimpanzee deserve the same freedom?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Keeping Things in Balance

Yesterday I finally surprised the rabbit by the blooming phlox. It must have been right there underfoot when I went to look at the flowers. I didn't see it flee, but I felt a big whoosh close by. Had that been a bird? No, too big for a bird. So I looked, and there it was in the underbrush between the flower beds.

This is a cropped version of the original  picture. My friend Jerilee helped me crop it.
The rabbit stood stock still for a good long while. It gave me enough time to both snap a picture and also shoot a very brief video.

Notice that after the rabbit hopped away, it did not go far. It was still there in sight, just a little deeper into the underbrush. I decided the wise course of action would be not to try to follow. I panned the camera so you could see just how close we were to the blooming phlox.

My house is surrounded by fields and woods, and lately we have been seeing lots and lots of rabbits. "There are too many of them," my daughter recently remarked, as several of them ran away on either side of our long driveway when we were going for a drive. "Someone should go hunting."

Someone probably will go hunting. It might be a coyote or better yet a fox.

In Case There's a Fox

I have never seen a fox on my property in all the years that I have lived here. But that does not mean that there isn't one. In fact, by making my land so hospitable to rabbits, I am inviting a fox to come live here. Why? Because foxes love rabbits. They are delicious!

Do I say this because I dislike rabbits? Not at all. One of my favorite books is Watership Down. I can very well imagine myself living the life of a rabbit. But then I can turn around and also imagine being a fox. I think the presence of the fox is as much a service to the rabbits as the presence of the rabbits is a service to the fox. We all need each other, and the circle of life depends on a delicate balance between predator and prey.

Without rabbits and other small prey, the foxes would starve, Without foxes and other predators, the rabbits would get fat and sick and overpopulate the land and die of starvation. They need each other, as all living things on this planet do.

Some people think they are very enlightened because one day when they are fully grown they suddenly  realize that the burger on their plate used to be a cow. But I think that someone who did not find this out until he was an adult must have led a very sheltered life. True enlightenment is the realization that the cow would never have existed at all, would never have been out in the field grazing and experiencing mother love or companionship or any other joyful  aspect of life, if not for the people who were raising it as food.

Balance is a difficult concept. It requires countervailing forces. It is based on conflict of interest. It means there will never be total peace, but a delicate balance of power prevents all out war from destroying everything.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Understanding the Denotation of Words

One of the steps in trying to have communication with another person who has a different bias is to go back to basics when we use words. By this, I mean using the words for their denotation and not their connotation.

Depending on who we are, and how we look at things, certain words can easily trigger negative or positive connotations based on our values, belief system and our personal situation. Take the word "cage". It has gotten a bad rap, so lots of people use the word "enclosure" and then everything is perfectly okay. I don't like this kind of game with words, and I think that it causes a lot of misunderstandings. A cage can be bad, if you are trying to get out, and it keeps you from things that you want. A cage can be good, if it protects you from danger: hence a diving cage, to keep divers safe from sharks. Even the whole question of who is on the inside or the outside of a cage or fence is largely determined by perspective. Do our borders keep aliens out or do they keep us in? It depends on the situation. It depends on where people want to go.

 If you are happy in your cage, then a cage is good. If you are sad, then it is bad. It's all in the mind of the beholder.

But when we start to call cages that we like "enclosures", and cages that we don't like "cages", then communicating with somebody else who has a different perspective becomes more difficult. Their values are built into the words, and they can't seem to step outside their bias.

Take the term "concentration camp".  It has a bad connotation for most of us, and rightfully so, but do you know what it really means? I'll tell you what it does not mean: "A bad place run by Nazis." Sometimes when I refer to a facility as a concentration camp, people accuse me of name-calling. But do you know what the literal meaning of a concentration camp is? It is a place where certain groups, to the exclusion of other groups, are concentrated in a given location. Usually, the groups that are singled out for being at that location are forbidden to be anyplace else.  They don't have the right to leave, and they also do not have the right to keep others out. The group affiliation in a concentration camp is usually determined by genetic criteria, ethnicity, place of origin or nationality.

Here are a few examples of concentration camps by this literal, denotative definition:

  • internment camps for enemy aliens run by the Japanese during WWII
  • internment camps for Americans of Japanese extraction run by the Americans during WWII
  • camps run by the Nazis in WWII in which many Jews and other "undesirables" were exterminated
  • detention centers for illegal aliens currently being opened in the United States
  • chimpanzee sanctuaries in the United States and elsewhere 

The idea behind a concentration camp, and hence its use of the word "concentration", is that individuals of a certain sort, as defined in a certain way, are problematic for those in charge, so they are concentrated in certain locations, and forbidden to be elsewhere. This does not necessarily imply that the individuals so concentrated are going to be treated "inhumanely" or that they are all going to be eventually executed. Many people came home from the Japanese internment camps. Most people made it out safely from the American internment camps of WWII. Right now, many people are assuming that the children in the detention centers are being given asylum, and not that they are going to be treated badly. Many sanctuaries for chimpanzees pride themselves on the humane treatment of the individuals that they house, and they believe they are being given an asylum from bad people who formerly kept them in "cages". The sanctuaries don't use "cages". They use "enclosures". Lots of people can't see past the labels.

Besides it being unfair and unjust to single out certain groups for this treatment, there are other concerns about all concentration camps, just based on the way they concentrate certain  groups in one place. One of the dangers of singling out specific groups for different treatment is that we don't always know what happens to them after they go in behind closed doors. In WWII, red cross representatives were able to make inspections of the various concentration camps. But we know from historical accounts that the things they were allowed to see were very different from what went on day by day. Another danger is that once a certain group is concentrated in a specific place -- even if it is for their "own protection" -- the regime may change, and when somebody else comes to power they may then be treated differently.

For this reason, I don't think it is wise to concentrate all chimpanzees in one of a few locations. It does not work that way in nature, where chimpanzees live in smaller groups of warring tribes, and where the decimation of one group leaves others to survive.

Even if all the people working at the current chimpanzee sanctuaries are nice people, this says nothing about what they are going to be like in the future with changed management. So while I am not immortal and someday Bow will need other people to look after him, I must try to find people younger than myself to take my place. What I do not want to do is to entrust Bow into a concentration camp with changing management and priorities that differ from mine. People my own age or older can guarantee nothing about what will happen to Bow after my death, anymore than I can. I need to train disciples, not give Bow up to my contemporaries, however well meaning.

If I did give him up, it would be back the the breeders, where he could live among his own family of origin. But the breeders are under attack, too, and they are no younger than I am. In fact, they are more senior. I would need to see who replaces them in their own organization and what the priorities of the younger generation are, before I could trust that our goals are sufficiently similar.

Bill Lemmon who ran the Lemmon Farm from which Washoe, Nim and Lucy emerged, was always willing to welcome back the chimpanzees that had been lent out for language experiments. He has a bad reputation and is described as a very scary guy, but in my opinion the worst thing that he ever did was that when he fell upon hard times, he sold out to medical experimenters. If people had been interested in sparing Nim his worst experiences, they should have helped Lemmon with his expenses on the farm. And this is why I react so strongly to the anti-breeder bias in current literature about ape language research. Without local breeders the researchers and the sanctuaries would both be out of luck. There simply would not be any chimpanzees in the United States at all. In fact, I suspect that this is the ultimate goal of the sanctuaries, no matter how humanely they are going about pursuing it. I don't share that goal.

Bow and I spend twelve hours a day in our cages -- or our enclosures -- together, As a result, I am aware of the conditions Bow lives under. If it is too hot or too cold, I know. We eat the same foods, so I know what he is eating, and I know if it's nutritious. We go in and out of the house often, and Bow gets to decide when. This means he has control over his environment. Most importantly of all, Bow gets to decide who is allowed into his space and who is kept out.

The dogs have the whole yard to roam in, but they usually stand right next to the pen, gazing at us longingly, as if the best possible place to be would be inside with us.

Bow has a sense of ownership and control, looking over my shoulder and inspecting everything I do. And I think that each of us prefers the cage we can control to a palatial institution where we are prisoners.

The real difference between a prison and a home is not how big of an enclosure it is, or even whether you can leave it safely, but whether you can decide for yourself who gets to come in.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Recognizing Our Bias

Everyone has a bias. It's impossible not to, just as each picture we take is viewed from a particular perspective and is colored in some way by our point of view.

Change the place where you are standing and the perspective shifts.

Stand further away and a bigger picture emerges, though the details are less clear.

Perspective shifting is something writers are familiar with. Psychologists will tell you that autistics have trouble doing this. But everyone has a bias, even psychologists. And real perspective shifting is something that requires a degree of detachment that few of us are capable of. Even among primatologists and others who work with chimpanzees, there are built in biases that taint almost every experiment.

Here are some books that I have read about the lives of chimpanzees who have lived among humans. Every book tells a story, and every story is told from a particular bias. In the case of Nim Chimpsky, I have read the same story from more than one bias. In the case of Washoe, I have only ever read the story from one perspective.  But Washoe, Lucy and Nim were contemporaries, and their stories were interlinked. Today, we tend to hear about all of them from a single point of view: that of people who see ape language experimentation as a damaging practice that is naturally bad for chimpanzees. Whether the scientist is Herbert Terrace or the Gardners, the story is actually told from the point of view of the assistants who worked for them, played with and took care of their chimps, and those who stayed with the abandoned youngster once the experiment was over or who rescued him or her from the mouth of hell when nobody else cared.

Don't get me wrong: I do think what was done to Washoe, Nim, and Lucy was bad. It was bad to abandon them. It was bad to enculturate them and then just walk away. But I don't think teaching them our language was bad. I don't think exposing them to our culture or sharing our lives with them is bad. But when you read the cautionary tales about their lives told from the point of view of Roger Fouts or Bob Ingersoll, that's all you get. It might as well be the story of Oliver Twist, with the animal language experimenter as Fagin, and Bill Lemmon as Sykes.

In case you think I am mistaken in thinking there is this bias, read this review:

Betrayed by Science: The Story of Nim Chimpsky.

There are several different, but somewhat related, questions to consider in ape language experimentation:

  • Is there any knowledge to be gained from exposing other apes to our language and culture?
  • Is it humane to rear apes among humans?
  • Do chimpanzees have a language ability comparable to that of humans?
  • How could we go about proving their ability without introducing our bias into the experiment?
  • How should the care of chimpanzees in capativity be financed?
  • Is there something about how the care of chimpanzees is financed that biases the result of experiments?

In reading the book by Elizabeth Hess or watching the related Project Nim movie there seems to be only one answer that comes to mind: NO! No, there is no knowledge to be gained, no, it is not humane, no chimpanzees do not have comparable language ability. There is only one way to finance chimpanzee captivity: through government money and tax free donations given to reputable sanctuaries. No, the government money and its conditions do not bias experiments.

 So how does this single perspective on the issue come about? Chiefly it is because scientists who depend on government grants lose their voice after the grants are taken away. Herbert Terrace believed his research with Nim was valid, and that he had disproven the theories of Noam Chomsky, up until the moment when he gave up on getting more funding for his project, at which point he suddenly recanted and changed his tune. The Gardners who worked with Washoe were convinced that they had proven she could sign meaningfully, but they gave up custody of her and sent her off with Roger Fouts, who eventually had to find a way to rescue her. So we hear the stories told from the humanitarian perspective of people who were not language experimenters, but who ended up picking up the pieces when the actual scientists dropped the ball. From their point of view, the experiments were nonsense, but the damage to the chimpanzees was palpable,  tragic and causeless. People like Fouts, after having the privilege of interacting with chimpanzees for years at public expense then blame the system and exhort us never to try to teach another ape language ever again.

Recently one of these humanitarian intervenors got in touch with me. We had been in correspondence about a year ago, but he surfaced again after my last blog post. I think it was the last blog post that reminded him about Bow, not because I wrote about Bow, but because I raised my voice in defense of a live-and-let-live policy toward other privately owned chimpanzees. He says he would like to help me and Bow, which is nice, but I wanted to make sure we had our perspectives clear and that his bias would not blind him. I mentioned the bias in the Project Nim movie, and he replied that he didn't think there was any bias in the Project Nim movie. When someone says there's no bias, what he's really saying is that the perspective from which the movie is shot is exactly his own.

I am trying to figure out now how best to explain this to him. Because even though this guy is much more neurotyical than I am, he's really bad at perspective shifting. He is good with chimpanzees.They like him. He has always felt kindly toward them and was able to enjoy an uninhibited  playful relationship with chimps, and so he thinks that the other, more intellectual way of relating to them is probably nonsense.

Every chimpanzee, like every human being, has many different types of needs: physical, emotional, social, intellectual and even spiritual. What typifies the scientific mentality is to relate most directly to the mind of the chimp, while ignoring his physical needs. That's largely what Herbert Terrace did, leaving the day to day care of Nim to assistants. It is also what the Gardners did. It is said that they were more like grandparents to Washoe than actual parents. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, unless it blinds the scientists to the other needs of the chimps besides intellectual stimulation.

What typifies the caretakers is that they were largely big-hearted, nurturing individuals who were less interested in the research than in a physical, playful relationship with their charge. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, unless it blinds one to the other needs of the chimp besides the social, emotional and physical.

One of the lessons I think everyone should learn from the Nim Chimpsky story is that you do not abandon a child that you have adopted, even if he is just a chimpanzee. Another lesson is that once somebody has learned something, like language or culture, you cannot expect him to just unlearn those things and be happy under "more natural conditions." Nim was not scarred for life by the absence of chimp companions. He was shocked by being abandoned by every human he had come to trust. He was sold down the river, because everybody  he depended on needed government funding to keep their projects going.

 But these are not the lessons that the book or movie emphasize. Instead, most people somehow go away with the idea that every chimp is better off in a sanctuary "among his own kind."  That  is the bias of Project Nim.

So I am hearing a lot from this individual about how great the facilities at certain sanctuaries are, but not about wanting to place homeless chimps with me and Bow. It just all seems very one sided.

In thinking of things that this individual might do to help me and Bow, I brought up the possibility of recruiting other chimps to talk to Bow via Skype or Facetime or some other electronic device. I mentioned that I had wanted to do this also with privately owned chimps, but most of their owners don't give the adolescent or adults among their chimps access to electronics. He replied that this is because chimpanzees largely don't respond to that kind of stimulus and don't interact with others long distance.

Bow loves electronics. When I got my new iPhone, he immediately wanted to change the camera perspective so he could see himself when taking a picture.

He has spoken to his grandmother  and others on Skype.

The difficulty with these long distance conversations is that Bow feels the need to display at the start, as he would indeed when meeting someone after a long period of not seeing them or in reacting to a new person who might be an intruder. With other chimpanzees as well, I expect it will take some accustomation before any communication beyond "I am bigger and stronger than you" will take place. So what we need is a regular, continuing and committed long distance relationship with another chimpanzee.

What can we learn from this? Lot of things! Among others, we can learn how chimpanzees communicate, how chimpanzees relay information to one another long distance, and whether there is any abstract code for the transmission of information that does not depend on showing another chimp where something is hidden.

What would Bow gain from this? A long distance friend of his own kind, without risking leaving home, losing his loved ones, or engaging in a physical confrontation with another chimp.

But this only makes sense if you believe there is more to a chimpanzee than just a very powerful, very affectionate animal. Those who tend to see the playful animal that resides in every chimp tend to discount the mind that is also there and is capable of abstract thinking. Those who see the mind sometimes forget the social and emotional needs.  We tend to see in others a little bit of ourselves. This stereotyping happens to children as well as chimpanzees.  Nurturers see physical and emotional needs. Teachers see intellectual potential. Scientists want to test how much there is of each.

Everybody's got a bias. The first step in trying to communicate with someone else is to acknowledge what our bias is. Sometimes that takes an intellectual effort from someone whose normal mode of operation is to go by gut feeling alone.