Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rerun of the Mensa Chimps! (4-15-2008)

Don’t get me wrong, I love nature shows on television. My kids are fascinated by the stories on Discovery and National Geographic. We encourage them to learn about the creatures of this Earth and to be stewards of all creation.

But sometimes, I think the narrators are in serious need of an intervention.

We were watching a show on PBS called "Primates" as told by a British researcher and nature hottie as she traipsed through the jungle in New Guinea and later in Matagascar to document the lives of various primates. One expects the researcher to love her subject. I can’t imagine braving the sub-topical heat, countless bugs, assorted necessary vaccinations and physical deprivations required of this type of research, unless one was in love with the subject matter.

However, this babe’s breathless descriptions of the various creatures and their habits and habitat paralleled that of the type of fan that is normally issued a restraining order.

In her first segment on orangutans, she was attempting to describe how these creatures move from limb to limb on a tree without suffering injury or breaking the branches.

"Careful judgment is called for, the orangutan must determine not simply the weight of the branches, but also the amount of force to be applied while taking into consideration his own weight. These calculations would be difficult even for a human." she whispered as we viewed said calculating primate move from branch to branch with nary a slide ruler.

Who knew orangutans could rival the engineers at MIT?

Still, the critters were pretty interesting so I watched the next segment on chimpanzees. As we viewed the "thoughtful stoic faces" of a family at peace with the world, she talked of how these chimps would sit for hours contemplating the world around them and showed footage of the chimps staring out at the jungle.

“Perhaps most startling about these pensive creatures is their sense of awe at nature.” She offered as she hiked to a local waterfall. “These chimps perform this same ritual every time they come to the waterfall.” The chimp on film is jumping from one side to the other in a zig zag pattern. “They do this whether they are alone or in a pack.” The footage shows the same chimp zigzagging with others over the waterfall. “This celebration of the water could be some form of ritual, signifying the higher awareness of the chimps, their sense of beauty, of wonder at the majesty of nature.”

She paused to look at the waterfall thoughtfully and then mentally went over the edge. “It could be their expression of essentially what for us would be religion.” The image of the waterfall blurred on the camera and the scene faded to black.

Following the religious chimps, she then took us with a war party from the same colony who set out to defend their territory. "The attack is brutal, unexpected, viscous and sends a clear message. But perhaps who are we to judge?" she posits as we are left with the shocking image of four angry chimps mauling a fifth for not showing due deference to their territory. Maybe the waterfall was a form of confession.

After the monkish monkeys, the film crew took us to an Amazon Utopia, where Pygmy chimps used sex as the dominant means of controlling behavior. Women (note not females) ruled the roost and over aggressive males were pacified with "a quickie." Also unique amongst this "chimp culture" was the use of tools and the occasional decision to walk on two legs instead of hunched over on four. The use of tools and the fact that some were left handed as versus right indicated "imagination, creativity, problem solving, intelligence and a sub culture." This particular cluster of chimps had determined how to open a kind of nut rich in protein that other chimp families could not open by using stones. More advanced than others, they had formed a chimp charter Mensa organization.

Though not the first to anthropromorphise the creatures she studied, I couldn’t bring myself to not see how far she would take it.

The silver back gorillas in Rwanda were obviously the grand prize of her documentary and she had us follow her through the bush to their territory, where the whole clan was having a "siesta." Seated less than five feet from one of the gorillas, she talked about these gentle giants that are so closely related to us, showing shots of the "children playing," the adults lovingly grooming, and others enjoying a well earned rest. I had to wonder, what exactly fatigues a gorilla, I mean besides nosy documenting film crews and the ongoing feud between the sex amazon monkeys, Mensa Chimps and religious sect.

When they woke from their rest, the lead silverback "sensibly" led them away from the camera but two adolescent males stayed behind as a rear guard and to "show off for the camera." She said. One knocked over a tree and thumped his chest. The second dragged the tree over to him and then went over and lightly tapped the intruding narrator on her back with his foot. She beamed with pleasure at having been brought into the game. "I’ve just been kicked by a gorilla!" she grinned impishly at the camera as though it had caught her first kiss. The second adolescent male, not to be outdone, charged at her and knocked her over before the behind the scenes guide could chase him off. She turned to the camera, breathless and hardly missing a beat, "Who knows what he might have tried if the guide hadn’t driven him off?"

After the sex chimp colony, I was certain I didn’t want to know.

1 comment:

MightyMom said...

oh my gawddness.

that's just awful.

I mean really really awful.

reminds me of the bearlover who never took any weapons with him while camping in known bear territory..this way the friendly bears would know he didn't want to hurt them. After Yogi killed him and his girlfriend they found the audio recording that they were making of the wondrous proof that they were making contact with the bears.....I read the transcript, the part that stuck with me was him yelling to the girlfriend "he's killing me! hit him with something! get him off! get something!!" .......of course, they had nothing to defend themselves with....

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!