Join 3,425 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Nigerian Boy Raised by Chimps.
April 17, 2002 2:13 PM   Subscribe

Nigerian Boy Raised by Chimps. I swear I'm not making this up. A disabled two-year-old Fulani boy was abandoned by his nomadic family because he was mentally and physically disabled, and was raised by a chimpanzee family in Nigeria's Falgore forest for a year and a half. He was found by hunters several years ago, and now lives in a children's home, where he walks and vocalizes like a chimpanzee, unable to communicate with humans normally. So the obvious question: Is it better to have taken this child away from his chimp family to live in an orphanage, or should they have let him continue to live in the forest?
posted by waldo (32 comments total)

 
Why don't they just *ask* him?
posted by Settle at 2:17 PM on April 17, 2002


Savage Girls And Wild Boys: A history of feral children.
posted by euphorb at 2:25 PM on April 17, 2002


Eliza Doolittle was brought up and raised by poor people, before being wrenched into the social elite. If Hollywood's taught me anything, it's that throwing people into different social worlds and making them cope isn't only difficult, it's hilarious!
posted by kfury at 2:26 PM on April 17, 2002


Settle wrote:
Why don't they just *ask* him?

On account of the whole hooting, screetching and swinging from the ceiling thing, I suppose.
posted by waldo at 2:26 PM on April 17, 2002


kfury, your comment was hilarious.
posted by treedream at 2:30 PM on April 17, 2002


That's not an obvious question at all; it's a stupid question, pardon the bluntness. Even IF the story as presented is true, we do not leave disabled children to live with animals because they might be "happier" that way, for the same reason we do not leave retarded adults in dumpsters or leave alzheimer's patients to wander the streets because that would be "better" for them.

Finally, I say IF above because euphorb's link above (great title, btw) points out that most if not all stories about "wild" children being raised by animals are exaggerated by the tellers to appeal to some romantic ideal we have about the notion. It's more likely, in other words, that the chimps didn't really do much for the boy in question, but that he somehow managed to survive (and probably not very well at all) after being abandoned. In that case, yes it's MUCH better for him to be cared for in an orphanage.
posted by yhbc at 2:44 PM on April 17, 2002


You guys, honestly, the answer is in Phil Collins's beautiful song "You'll Be In My Heart." It's all about being raised by chimps. You should download it.
posted by adrober at 2:45 PM on April 17, 2002


They should introduce the boy to the Bush sisters. They'd have a lot to talk about, I'm sure...
posted by Pinwheel at 2:46 PM on April 17, 2002


What foods (bananas?) do they feed the kid? Does he fondle himself in public?.
posted by Postroad at 3:13 PM on April 17, 2002


or should they have let him continue to live in the forest?

Are you serious? Who among us hasn't longed to return to the trees? Poor kid.
posted by fleener at 3:28 PM on April 17, 2002



posted by quonsar at 4:03 PM on April 17, 2002


The ardour of arboreality is an adventure we have spurned.
posted by piskycritters at 4:37 PM on April 17, 2002


Is he potty trained or does he just ahh...go when he needs to?
posted by jaden at 6:00 PM on April 17, 2002


MY IDOL. He'll be lucky if he doesn't become a senator.



Seriously this reminds me of that joke about why Helen Keller's dog ran away.
posted by Settle at 6:33 PM on April 17, 2002


KREEGAH BUNDOLO!!
TARZAN BUNDOLO!!
posted by username at 7:34 PM on April 17, 2002


Ha, ha. This thread never had a f'ing chance to get off the ground with all the jokes. Main point: there are no real feral children. Romulus and Remus was a myth. The little bastards in Blue Lagoon would've starved to death. Subsidiary point: wishing there were feral children, and thinking that it would somehow be mysto-neato "better" if they were "left to their natural families, their true wilderness protectors" (not a real quote from anything up above, just sarcasm, the typing equivalent of holding up little 'quote' fingers beside your head) is just buying into the myth. Fact: there are abandoned children. Many are abandoned because they aren't wanted, or aren't "desirable" in some way - physically deformed, mentally or developmentally deficient, or just the wrong sex. Sometimes, through pure damn luck, one or two survive long enough to be found. Romanticizing those foundlings as "feral children" is not a good thing.

jeez, I'm in a bad mood today.
posted by yhbc at 7:44 PM on April 17, 2002


Geez, yhbc, did your chimp-mother leave you for dead on the schoolhouse steps or something?

Just kidding. I appreciate your point about not romanticizing an animal existence. It's similar to the way people harken back to the way things used to be in the good old days, complaining endlessly about how shitty out complex modern life is. They forget about the details like small pox, poor sanitation, infant mortality, etc...

Still, you have to admit that there is something redeeming in the fact that this kid was left for dead by humans and survived his most vulnerable years in the care of beasts. I think you're denying the evidence of his behavior when you say it'sunlikely he spent much time with or got much from the chimps. Look at how much he absorbed.
posted by scarabic at 7:54 PM on April 17, 2002


The "fact" (there I go with the fingers again) that this kid was left for dead and survived says a lot more to me about humans than about beasts. I still say all the stories of feral children are instances of abandoned or lost children unexpectedly surviving, through their own innate ingenuity or pure dumb luck, rather than the nurturing intervention of any animal protectors. The animal kingdom just doesn't work like that, but we tend to believe it does - and write mythological dramas, crappy screenplays, and one-off news wire stories about it - precisely because we want to think it does, and we anthropomorphize their "protectors" to death.

What he supposedly "absorbed" from the chimps - the restlessness, "animal" movements, and lack of vocalization - is just as easily, and more likely, attributable to the effects of some degree of autism and the lack of any socialization. If a human doesn't have socialization at the right stage in their development, it's nearly if not totally impossible to do it later on. Isolation at just the wrong stage of development is a terrible thing to do a child, and probably results in a lot of the classic "symptoms" of feral children, and might explain most of the classic cases - Kaspar Hauser, f'rinstance, and Kamala and Amala, the Indian wolf-children (who also spoke together in their own idioglossia, a language twins which are isolated from other children sometime develop).

In short, I don't buy the story, or the premise.
posted by yhbc at 8:22 PM on April 17, 2002


I still say all the stories of feral children are instances of abandoned or lost children unexpectedly surviving, through their own innate ingenuity or pure dumb luck, rather than the nurturing intervention of any animal protectors. The animal kingdom just doesn't work like that, but we tend to believe it does.

What about that little boy that fell into the Gorilla pit in some zoo in the States' a couple years ago? The female Gorilla not only protected the child, but also cradled him. Maternal instincts are probably some of the strongest instincts in the animal kingdom -- especially among mammals.
posted by mkn at 8:35 PM on April 17, 2002


Interesting that so many people are convinced that the theory as presented by the Nigerian Doctors in the link cannot possibly be true. Because this is easy to fit into a first-year grad school debunking of noble savage romanticism?
posted by crunchburger at 8:37 PM on April 17, 2002


mkn: Damn. Surprisingly good point.
Howsabout this: that was an instance, like the many stories told of dolphins holding up drowning swimmers (I swear I've heard of that happening, just can't be bothered to search for a link right now) in which animals do show their "concern" (I almost used "compassion", but that would be anthropomorphic) for individual humans in obvious distress, but which wouldn't be sustainable over the long term to enable that human to survive in the wild, or be "adopted" by said animals.

and on preview - I thought I was the only one! But it's still nice (I guess) to be mistaken for a first-year grad student.
posted by yhbc at 8:48 PM on April 17, 2002


The whole idea that an abandoned baby who is adopted by animals would be better off if he/she were left with the animals is ridiculous. If this little guy was left alone, he's going to spend the rest of his life eating forest food, running from poachers, and humping chimps. The whole "noble savage" thing is overrated. I know. I took part in Outward Bound.

When it comes down to it, the big question is who is happier: the guy who can order a quesadilla at Chili's or the guy who spend his whole life trying to hump the most chimps?

I submit that the quesadilla guy is the winner.

And for the record, the author of that article should be told that chimps and monkeys are two different things.
posted by Samsonov14 at 9:03 PM on April 17, 2002


good lord, don't mention monkeys ...
* looks around furtively *

posted by yhbc at 9:08 PM on April 17, 2002


Dolphins do occasionally save people, but, umm, they also occasionally rape people, so I'm not quite willing to trust them yet.

(I'm not kidding, there have been extremely isolated cases of male dolphins attempting to have their way with swimmers. Which you'd think is funny, but could actually kill you, since dolphins are quite a bit larger than you'd expect, are rather violent sexually, and are practically composed entirely of muscle. By the way, do please click that link to see its delightful accompanying graphic.)

I swear it didn't just happen in a Carl Hiaasen novel -- I'm looking for 'net resources right now (possibly a support group?)
posted by logovisual at 9:09 PM on April 17, 2002


A support group for people raped by dolphins? Yumpin' Yehosphat -- how common is this event?!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:22 PM on April 17, 2002


I don't believe the story, but I love the thread. Thanks, participants. I'm going to worry about Sandy and Flipper for the rest of the day.
posted by kcmoryan at 5:07 AM on April 18, 2002


If this little guy was left alone, he's going to spend the rest of his life eating forest food, running from poachers, and humping chimps.

You say that like it's a bad thing...
posted by rushmc at 7:36 AM on April 18, 2002


logovisual: I wasn't able to find the incident that inspired Hiaasen's story, but I did find an interview where he implies that it was based on a true incident.

I do remember reading about an incident in the Miami Herald where an intoxicated person climbed into a tank at the Seaquarium and drowned. This was probably at least 5 years ago. I don't remember there being any romantic details, but Hiaasen works for the Herald and would have been privy to any unpublished details.
posted by groundhog at 7:44 AM on April 18, 2002


The little bastards in Blue Lagoon would've starved to death.

But they had to stay alive to make sweet love by the fire...
posted by adampsyche at 7:50 AM on April 18, 2002


this is the best thread i have ever read....
animal rape, masturbation, boys humping monkeys, potty jokes....

Has anyone read "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins? That book would explain this not as compassion but as an animal being confused and mistaking the boy for another, possibly related, chimp and would want to perpetuate its own genes. The same thing with the dolphin.... fairly the same size, smooth skin, etc.... If there is a group of dolphins and one apears to be incapacitated, the dolphins will carry it to the surface....
posted by Espoo2 at 10:34 AM on April 18, 2002


Thank you. We'll be here all week. Try the veal.
posted by yhbc at 10:38 AM on April 18, 2002


Try the veal

Shorteyes.
posted by groundhog at 11:22 AM on April 18, 2002


« Older New York's Natural History Museum Pioneers Use of ...  |  In one of the worst cases of c... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments