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Friday, December 5, 2014

If you want to set men free...

Bow asked to go outside this morning, after breakfast, and I complied and led him down the hall to the airlock and opened the door to the outer pen, but Bow did not go out. He sat there for a moment, surveying the wet, wet concrete, the wet bench, and the slight drizzle that later became a flood, and he decided that he wanted to stay indoors. So we went back in, and he asked for his blanket, and now he is lazing around.

Sometimes, I get comments from people on my videos of Bow displaying that go something like this: "Set him free. He doesn't deserve to live in a cage. He belongs in the wild!" Can you imagine how a chimpanzee who doesn't want to ever get his feet wet, even just a little, would fare in the wild?

I would no more set him free than I would set free my fifteen year old daughter to become a hunter gatherer in Africa or South America or even in the nearest national forest. We have another name for this kind of "setting free". It is called abandonment.

This is a truth that applies as much to humans as to chimpanzees. Take a human out of the hunter gatherer state, transplant him where he has no chance to learn how to survive on his own, and then set him free.  See how happy he will be about it. I described something similar that happened in Cartagena, Colombia  in Theodosia and the Pirates: The War Against Spain after Pablo Morillo sacked and burned the city, killing everyone for their rebellion against Spain, and leaving only a few destitute slaves alive. Life did not get better for those slaves because they were now "free".

The world is full of do-gooders who haven't got a clue about the unintended consequences of their acts of doing good. The first rule of decency is: do no harm. Leave what is not yours alone.


  1. Good analogy, Aya, comparing releasing your daughter in another country.
    I guess people don't understand that there are some things that are learned from parents, peers, etc., such as how to become a hunter gatherer. It's a centuries-old problem. People bringing animals into foreign countries and then releasing them where the now-introduced species either survives and wreaks havoc on the new environment or it dies. Either way, it's an awful thing to do to the animals.
    On a more basic level - people do it everyday with domesticated cats and dogs too. They're abandoned by the thousands every day and people think the dog / cat that has had their kibble poured in a bowl for 4 or 5 years will suddenly be able to find food for themselves in the wild. The ones that do learn to find food still run the risk of being shot, hit by a car, being hunted by coyotes / wolves, or catching a deadly disease that they normally would not have been introduced to. Why in the world do people think this way about cats and dogs, much less a chimpanzee that has been raised since birth in a human home?
    Not to mention the other basic concept that they should NOT be telling YOU how to take care of Bow.

    1. Thanks, Kathy. Glad you get it!
      I don't understand why people abandon dogs and cats, either, but we are lucky to have Brownie because someone abandoned him. We would never have gone out and bought a chocolate lab, but when Brownie asked us to adopt him, we did, and it was a good thing for both us and him.