36 thoughts on “So human in aspect

  1. I’m a big fan of getting some primate rights written down and enforced, but as usual it’s all about money and politics.

    1. Wasn’t there a move in Germany a couple of years back which nearly got the human rights of great apes recognised?
      The topic keeps on surfacing, and re-surfacing ; and eventually it’ll get through. I hope.

      1. Germany has some basic animal rights in their constitution, but I can’t remember if they also included some special rights for primates.

        It is a subject that keeps popping up as we continuously evolve and expand our knowledge about our cousins.

        I hope it’s only a matter of time.

        1. I was not aware of the status of animal rights in Germany, but it does not surprise me that they are ahead of most on that issue. One of the stand out defining characteristics of German culture that I recall from my time living there in the ’70s was a very serious regard for wildlife. Very strict rules protecting everything from animals to trees.

          That eco-consciousness probably derived from pragmatic resource management concerns but, regardless, it is still laudable.

  2. Because you can’t trust little girls! If they let her out, she would very first ride piggy on that poor gorilla baby, then she would hold his eyes shut so he can’t see where he’s going and finally she would laugh her head off, screaming so loudly into his ears as to perforate the poor gorilla baby’s eardrums.
    Nono, they mustn’t let her out, nonono…


  3. WEIT is such a great website and your posting of videos/photos is just one of the *many* reasons I return 4-5 times each day, every day. Thank you professor Coyne.

  4. It would take a great many years to train the one in captivity to be able to survive in the wild, and as things stand in gorilla lands, the one in captivity has a far greater chance of living a long and relatively happy life in captivity (provided it lives in a habitat adapted to gorillas) than back in the wild.

    1. Again because the human primate is a way bigger jerk! I’d prefer sanctuaries for them like Jane Goodall has set up for chimps.

    2. That may be completely true, but you’re talking about a one-generation reason for keeping such exhibits open, at most. By all means let the current animals live out healthy lives in the only environment they can probably succeed in. But JAC’s question is still relevant in a long-term, strategic sense: why are we collecting new apes to put in zoos? Why are we replacing these animals when they die? Why are we opening new exhibits, etc., etc.

  5. Timely question. I was at the Toronto Zoo yesterday and saw the gorillas there. I felt sad for them. They all looked terribly bored. Anthropomorphizing yes, but perhaps appropriately given what close cousins we are. I don’t think they should be kept in captivity.

  6. I went to the Atlanta zoo not too long before that and remember seeing a new baby and a young gorilla who wanted to play with the baby. if the timing was right, I wonder if this guy was one of those two.

    Anyway, the Atlanta Zoo has some interesting grounds, but it’s definitely not the best (in terms of size, retreats for privacy, entertainment/stimulation) primate enclosures I’ve ever seen.

    1. Copyright? This is a private video someone put up. In Germany we too have some videos not allowed, mainly music. I then look for those on a site called “dailymotion” and I often find the music I am looking for there. If the name wasn’t so appaling, I would even recommend that 🙂

  7. Would you do me a favour, Dr Coyne? I am now residing in Pakistan, teaching, but this country bans Youtube and so I must paste links into a proxy site in order to view anything at Youtube. Would you include the links, if possible, to the videos? Thanks

    1. youtube.com/watch?v=CxcDsa5GJQE

      you have to add the bit at the front missing, no prob. (it’s my way of avoiding posting the actual video).

      did you manage to see it?

  8. That’s a window to a large outdoor area with several gorillas.

    They’re there because if humans can’t experience something first hand, they’re much less likely to care about it. Zoos make people care about animals, which makes conservation programs fundable.

    And no, nature documentaries are not just as good.

    While zoos in the past have had some pretty horrid conditions for the animals on display, that’s not true for almost all large zoos today. I recall the horrible cramped boxes for big cats at the Bronx Zoo on school trips back in the 80’s. When I went last year, all the big cats had large enclosures with simulated natural environments. The tiger had a gigantic area that you had to ride the tram to see.

    The peacocks in the San Diego Zoo aren’t even contained. They run and fly wherever they please, which often puts them right in front of you. They stay because that’s where they get the regular meals. The same is true of some water bird areas – the tenants stick around because that’s where the good food comes from. There are even some mallards who moved in uninvited.

    Add to that the fact that most major zoos are non-profit organizations which are involved with conservation efforts all across the world, and I rate zoos as a huge net social good.

    1. “Zoos make people care about animals, which makes conservation fundable.”

      Citation needed.

      If we had empirical evidence that your assertion were true, I might change my opinion that zoos are primarily entertainment.

  9. When I was small, my mother took my brother and I to a circus, where there were two cages, one holding a tiger, the other a chimpanzee mother and child, she later related that the tiger looked at us without interest, but the chimpanzee mother clearly saw the relationship between us.

    Not only did my mother wonder why the chimpanzee family were in a cage, but she was sure the chimpanzee mother did too!

  10. Wow, everybody is taking this way too far. This is a zoo, zoos exist at the moment whether or not you want them to. This is a little girl who has no idea that a gorilla behind glass might be unfair to the gorilla. She is simply playing and enjoying herself. I would say this in no way endangered the life of that gorilla in his current situation.

    1. We’re responding to Jerry’s comment asking why one of them is in captivity. I see no evidence in the comments that people think the little girl is somehow culpable for the existence of zoos or in harming the gorilla.

      This is something we have discussed off here and here

  11. How anyone can watch this and insist that humans and gorillas don’t have relatively recent common anscestors is beyond me.

  12. When the gorilla baby bares its teeth and the girl’s parents assume it’s smiling, isn’t it really just confused and annoyed that the human baby keeps signalling aggression by baring its teeth?

  13. Someone has to say it…so many people regret the captivity of charismatic animals in zoos, but will eat supermarket pork without thinking twice. I hope the welfare of *all* animals starts being taken seriously in this century.

    1. When it comes to our relationships to other life on this planet, I think we are all hypocrites to some extent. Myself included. I’ve grown accustomed to the fact that the “rules” guiding my own food consumption are ultimately indefensible to my own criticism. (I eat some kinds of seafood but not mammals or birds.)

      There is only this slippery ethical slope we’re on. I wouldn’t hold your breath hoping as you are hoping. If only because “*all* animals” includes a rather broad set of creatures I’d rather live without. Guinea worm, for example.

    2. Your overarching point is valid, but this is a post about gorillas in captivity, not vegetarianism. Eliminating or even minimizing the captivity of apes or killer whales is a worthy goal regardless of a culture’s eating habits.

      1. Good point, and I agree with Dr Coyne’s concerns about the morality and value of zoos, not that I’m necessarily opposed to all forms of captive breeding. There’s no doubt though that they can be detrimental to the welfare of animals, and that animals in captivity often display neurotic stereotypical behaviours. The last time I went to Edinburgh Zoo (one of the better ones I’m sure), one of the big cat enclosures had a figure of eight worn into the ground where it had been pacing so much. What I really don’t like is that zoos are often an extension of noisy theme parks, which are hardly centred on education or conservation, so you have to question what their ultimate motivation really is.

        When it comes to Gorillas, I wonder if their complex social lives might cause them to suffer added stress. They can’t willingly transfer to new groups, subordinate individuals can’t escape from dominant males, and they are constantly stared at by thousands of visitors, some with flashing cameras, in a way that they might find threatening. I wouldn’t be surprised if zoos in the future evolve way beyond what is seen as acceptible today.

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