53. In The Can Out The Can (03/2012)
After years of confinement, a group of Chacma baboons used for research will be relocated to a sanctuary where they will remain for the rest of their natural lives. Deprived of meaningful social interaction, these sentient beings had been randomly captured in their home terrain and imprisoned for academic research. The baboons were held in solitary conditions (as this was more practical for management) for useless experimentation and research in humans. Non-human primates are not good models for human disease: Dated public information about HIV obtained from studies of the disease in Chimpanzees conducted elsewhere in the 90’s had already been declared to have no prediction value for humans, whilst advances in alternatives to animal organs are being made all the time. Prosthetic valves have been almost perfected in human cardiac surgery for some time now. The establishment considered the need, expense, and cruelty involved was justified for the betterment of man, so worthy of preserving.
Plain observation reveals even to a child of our species the sensitive nature of our distant cousins, also primates, the baboons. Fortunately in our remote neighbourhood there are still troops of resident baboons to be seen regularly at close range: Beautiful, easily make us laugh, inspire respect and admiration, perfect little anatomies – miniatures of ourselves but phenomenally strong. We share senses; mannerisms; habits; expressions of hunger, thirst, love, hate, jealousy, joy, sex… thoughts even. It is surprising that they don’t shun us, but they are too much like us: bold, opportunistic, forgiving, curious, sociable, and ready to engage. And if there is a pie going they want their piece of it!
We can look at them and learn what it means to pass the time leisurely, to play, to work and live together freely….
While you were down the pub, or swimming in the sea, or just watching TV we helped ourselves to the surplus crops and the odd lamb chop; trashed a few rows of mielies, while you were away. We figured it was there for the taking. Such excess!
Until the late 1970’s it was legal for select human beings to hunt down and kill the San Bushmen variety of Homo sapiens in this country. Eish!
It’s still legal to shoot baboons and many other naturally occurring non-human beings, requiring no proof to be considered vermin. Humans can do anything they please to these sentient creatures, however violent, by way of trapping, torture, leaving them to die in cages or ‘leg hold traps’ in the sun, poisoning, running down with a vehicle with no accountability whatsoever now, on this earth, in this life with its waxing waning conscience.
Save the rare mountain gorilla! There are only a few dozen remaining on a remote slope of a dwindling forest in central Africa. He is so big and handsome, almost human. The great ape must live: He has a right to live! He has a family, emotions, and feelings: It would be unthinkable to shove him in a box and leave him to die, shoot him point blank, slit his throat, hack off a foot or a hand, violate that perfect form… our cousin, the baboons’ cousin, mammal, living creature of this rogue planet.
Is it worth the effort and expense to rehabilitate clearly physically and psychologically damaged primates? They have clung to life thus far against all odds. For each one being alive is the same miracle of existence. They serve as a reminder of an era where humans are learning to care, embrace accountability, and to understand what it means to be alive.