|The transformation of Charla Nash, who was badly mauled by Travis, a friend's pet chimpanzee, back in 2009.|
If you were planning to buy the kids a pet chimp this holiday season, you better hold that thought.
A surprise announcement has come from the Jane Goodall Institute, the center named for the famed scientist who has spent decades of her life studying chimpanzees.
It seems the Institute takes a dim view of people who welcome chimps into their homes as pets.
"Want to raise a chimp? Think again!" their website harrumphs.
Who knew? Apparently chimpanzees, who share approximately 98% of their DNA with humans and are our closest cousins among the apes, are dangerous.
The website cautions that chimp babies appear cute and cuddly, and don't mind playing dress-up when young. But they grow up to become surly and unpleasant, and eventually refuse to wear the funny costumes that humans love to dress them in.
This is especially true of the males, who often become prone to outbursts of violence as adults. What's neat about this is adult chimps are four to five times stronger than human males, much faster, and have razor sharp teeth and claws.
So when they attack, they are damn near unstoppable without the use of firearms.
|Travis, the chimp who mauled Charla Nash, and his owner Sandra Herold, in happier days. Travis was shot dead by the police during the February 2009 attack on Nash. Herold died of a heart attack two years later.|
Indeed, according to recent studies, chimps are natural born killers, and in the wild often gang up to murder members of other chimp tribes, then steal their land, food, and females.
Chimps, as it turns out, are more like us than we ever realized. They live in a highly-complex, male-dominated society. Larger males routinely resort to violence and intimidation as ways to gain status among their peers.
Meanwhile, smaller males use complicated, Machiavellian political maneuvers and alliance-building for the same purpose. Just like among humans, alliances are fragile and can suddenly collapse when sneaky chimps sniff better opportunities elsewhere.
Is this a pet that you want in your house - untrustworthy, violent, immensely strong? Most homes already have one of these. They call it "Dad."
|Male chimps on patrol at the edge of their territory in an African national park. Violence most often breaks out on the borders between areas dominated by different groups. Sound familiar?|
Bonobos - A Better Pet Option
There is a better way to keep a primate in your home. We have another close relative among the great apes, lesser known and rarely taken as pets. This one is called the bonobo.
Bonobos have not been studied as extensively as chimps. At first glance, however, I'd say they look pretty attractive.
Physically, they are very similar to chimps. The untrained eye can't tell them apart. But emotionally, they couldn't be more different.
Bonobos have a female-dominated society where very little violence happens. What violence that does take place tends to happen when a male becomes aggressive and the females gang up to put him in his place.
Instead of violence, bonobos run their society through the near-constant exchange of sexual favors. Bonobos are the only non-human animals to have been observed engaging in face-to-face sex, tongue kissing, and oral sex.
Rather than being immensely strong compared to their human counterparts, adolescent female bonobos have clitorises that are three to four times bigger than those of adolescent girls. So large, in fact, that they are easily visible, and waggle while they walk.
The bonobos need those big clitorises. Females frequently have sex with other females, usually every two to three hours.
When a group of bonobos finds a new food source, their excitement often results in a group orgy. When two separate tribes encounter each other, rather than fight it out like chimps do, the bonobos tend to mix it up with yet another orgy, swapping individuals between groups. That gets everybody relaxed and on the same page.
When you do the math on this, it becomes a little odd that people have been taking chimps as pets all this time. Chimps = violence. Bonobos = sex. In retrospect, it seems like a no-brainer.
Rather than worry about your chimp suddenly deciding to rip your face apart, or tear your arms off and beat you to death with them, with a bonobo, your main worry is that your favorite pet might become a little too fond of you.
And really, that would be kind of a good problem, wouldn't it?
|This could be you. Two female bonobos get busy for the cameras.|