Archive for May 13th, 2012

Throwing Stones

Science Men are having an Excitement about a chimpanzee named Santino, who is currently interned in Sweden in a heavily fortified compound known as the Furuvik Zoo.

These Science Men have subjected Santino to a Study, from which they have drawn many interesting Conclusions.

However, it seems to me that the Science Men may be neglecting the primary conclusion which Santino, through his behavior, seeks to communicate.

It seems that one day in 2009, Santino, 34, was compelled to pick up a stone in each hand, and commence screeching at humans, who were standing there Looking at him.

The humans retreated in surprise, and Santino went back about his business.

The same group of humans returned later that day, again to Look at Santino, said Looking again occurring without the chimp’s permission.

Santino sauntered their way, again holding two stones, but this time appearing non-aggressive, placidly munching on an apple.

Then, when he had moved within range, Santino suddenly hurled his stony projectiles at the offending humans.

Santino next set about piling hay in an area of his cell located close to where humans would arrive to Look at him. He then secreted stones beneath the hay.

When humans would come by to Look, he would nonchalantly stroll over to the hay, then quickly reach inside, draw forth rocks, and fire them at the Lookers.

This behavior of Santino occurred recurrently. Each morning, before humans were permitted into the zoo, Santino would hump up his hay, and secret stones beneath it. Then, when humans would start Looking, he would bombard them.

A survey of the enclosure showed that Santino made piles of ammunition only on the quarter of the island’s shore that faced the visiting crowds.

When his keepers cottoned on to the fact that Santino devoted considerable time and energy each morn to collecting stones and dragging them across the moat that surrounded his enclosure, so that he could properly greet humans when they arrived to Look, they rudely removed the stones.

At which time Santino determinedly tapped the concrete floor of his cell with his fist, releasing chunks of concrete he then fashioned into discs suitable for throwing.

Staff at the zoo coped with Santino’s antics by warning visitors when he was getting agitated, and erected a fence to try to contain the projectiles.

All this caused Science Men to stream to the scene like ants.

The researchers watched this behavior continue for almost four months. Santino would conceal the rocks under hay or behind logs or other structures, casually walk up to it, and then suddenly throw it at a visitor.

Some zookeepers shrugged: Santino had been periodically heaving rocks at humans for near on a decade. It was just something he did.

But the Science Men, they Observed and Quantified.

Over the course of the summer, Osvath and Karvonen observed repeated episodes of this behavior, and also recovered stones that Santino had hidden under hay or logs, racking up 114 days of observation. They recovered a total of 35 projectiles that Santino had apparently concealed: 15 under hay heaps, 18 behind logs, and two behind a rock structure on the island.

As humongous mounds of snow are not unknown in Sweden, the Furuvik Zoo closes for a time each winter. And when the place reopened for the 2011 season, Santino no longer engaged in stone-throwing.

It is believed he is now constructing a mortar. In this way, humans may be discouraged from Looking, before they ever approach his enclosure.

There is also the theory that the Solution decided upon by humans to control Santino’s rock-throwing behavior—castration—may have rendered the man more docile, interested no more in driving away the Lookers.

“They have castrated the poor guy. They hope that his hormone levels will decrease and that will make him less prone to throw stones. He’s already getting fatter and he likes to play much more now than before,” said Osvath.

Au contraire. I do not believe that castration has rendered him more docile. I believe it has determined him to construct a thermonuclear device. Let the wrath of the Wronged, says he, let it all rain down.



Sleeping Beauty

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May 2012
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