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Chimp throws stones, gets castrated.
March 9, 2009 12:31 PM   Subscribe

Chimp stores weapons. After throwing cached stones at zoo visitors, the unfortunate animal had his own stones removed. Other examples of foresight and planning in animals are described here and here.
posted by binturong (73 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
For the love of Christ, the castrated the chimp rather than building a chain-link fence outside his cage?
posted by orthogonality at 12:36 PM on March 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Unusual or not, Santino's rock-throwing may not be in evidence when spring comes to Sweden this year and he emerges to see visitors again across the water.

In order to decrease his agitation, which was fueled in part by high testosterone levels characteristic of dominant males, the animal was castrated last fall.


Silly monkey.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:37 PM on March 9, 2009


For the love of Christ, the castrated the chimp rather than building a chain-link fence outside his cage?

Cheaper than being sued by a visitor.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:38 PM on March 9, 2009


An ape at the STL Zoo threw some bark at me with remarkable accuracy once -- he'd probably been practicing. It wouldn't surprise me if it came from a cache either, since he went to what seems in hindsight like a specific place to get it.
posted by Foosnark at 12:39 PM on March 9, 2009


Storing stones to throw them at visitors shows that chimps are damn close to humans: they too can be vicious assholes.

Castrating the offending chimp, however, shows that we humans still are more vicious.
posted by Skeptic at 12:42 PM on March 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


There's been other rock-throwing primates Sweden recently. In Malmo on Saturday, scores of rock-throwing protesters intent on stopping the Sweden-Israel Davis Cup tennis match clashed with police.

This was a planned protest. Presumably they'd cached their rocks too. But these primates were charged with rioting and assault and, so far, have been allowed to keep their testicles.
posted by grounded at 12:46 PM on March 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Castrating the offending chimp, however, shows that we humans still are more vicious.

"Planet of the Apes" was a cautionary tale, man. We need to sterilize all these tailless apes ASAP.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:47 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, that chimp had balls.
posted by CynicalKnight at 12:50 PM on March 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


my opinion is that any animal that shows this level of complex thinking should have been rewarded with being separated from the source of his agitation and taken care of some place else. But I suppose castration is easier.. so where lobotomies and hysterectomies.

"Haldol: for geriatric agitation"
posted by edgeways at 12:51 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Someone fucked up when they were told to remove his stones.
posted by Elmore at 12:51 PM on March 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Piling up stones, eh? NOW we know how the pyramids were built.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 12:58 PM on March 9, 2009


After a few years some other alpha-male will discover "paper". Once that happens, the possibility of another young buck discovering "scissors" is inevitable. And then there'll be a fucking chimp war.
posted by ob at 1:01 PM on March 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


"An ape at the STL Zoo threw some bark at me with remarkable accuracy once"

As I mentioned in a previous comment, I was assaulted as a child, when a chimp in a pink tutu ice-skated up to me and without so much as a word punched me in the stomach.
posted by orthogonality at 1:03 PM on March 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


There is something about chimpanzees — their tantalizing closeness to us in both appearance and genetic detail — that has always driven human beings to behavioral extremes, actions that reflect a deep discomfort with our own animality, and invariably turn out bad for both us and them.
posted by ornate insect at 1:03 PM on March 9, 2009


I'm serving notice on any more advanced lifeform that may kidnap and imprison me to be jeered at by other members of its species. I will spend my time practicing to hit you with whatever projectiles I have access to.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:04 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


No one has mentioned the monkeys in the wild throwing their own shit and intruders.
posted by Palmerpoodles at 1:08 PM on March 9, 2009


Who are they throwing the intruders at?
posted by Mister_A at 1:09 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Chimpanzee behavior that is at the edge of their highest abilities is always interesting to read about. I just question the uniqueness of this," [Sue Taylor Parker, a retired professor of biological anthropology at Sonoma State University] said.

Man, Sue Taylor Parker... simple silence would have been a more damning and sincere response.
posted by pokermonk at 1:13 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's nothing sadder than a chimp without his monkey.
posted by owtytrof at 1:29 PM on March 9, 2009


This isn't funny, it's fucking horrible.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:35 PM on March 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


a chimp in a pink tutu ice-skated up to me and without so much as a word punched me in the stomach.
Nothing's worse than a monkey punch.
I may be off by a letter there.
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 1:37 PM on March 9, 2009


In other news, squirrels found to stash nuts for the winter.
(NOT TESTICLES-IST)
posted by exogenous at 1:40 PM on March 9, 2009


Give them spray paint, and they may give you Banksy's warning.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:41 PM on March 9, 2009


I googled around hoping to read that the castration to reduce aggression was somehow for health benefits unrelated to the chimpanzee being on public show, but it seems his response was entirely frustration at being gawked at. Couldn't they have sent him somewhere that wouldn't happen?
posted by Abiezer at 1:42 PM on March 9, 2009


Spaying and neutering dogs and cats is normal practice, so what's the big deal about a chimpanzee being neutered?
posted by Byun-o-matic at 1:48 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


So... this has nothing to do with Bush?
posted by LordSludge at 1:50 PM on March 9, 2009


Man, you lost an opportunity with your post title there.

Simian Storer and Slinger Shorn of Stones

or

Zoo to Ape: I Am Going to Cut Your Fucking Balls Off!
posted by Mister_A at 1:55 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Man, you lost an opportunity with your post title there.

You could even go for a Sun (as in the British tabloid) headline. Something with a weak pun and an inaccuracy such as:

John Wayne Bubbles

Zoo does a Lorena on chimp for flinging rocks!!

posted by ob at 2:06 PM on March 9, 2009


Seems to me he is just asserting his position as the dominant male. All he got in return was his nuts chopped off. Poor guy.
posted by scarello at 2:06 PM on March 9, 2009


In other news: Flea's whereabouts still unknown. Authorities say the only clues they have are a discarded black bodysuit and a pair of comically large novelty scissors.
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:06 PM on March 9, 2009


He's the only male in a group that includes half a dozen females until his rock-storing and tossing shenanigans get him castrated. With "foresight" and "planning" like this, he could have been a successful commercial banker on Wallstreet.
posted by Hylas at 2:22 PM on March 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: Something With a Weak Pun and an Inaccuracy.
posted by Mister_A at 2:23 PM on March 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Spaying and neutering dogs and cats is normal practice, so what's the big deal about a chimpanzee being neutered?
posted by Byun-o-matic at 1:48 PM on March 9


The dumbest chimp is orders of magnitude smarter and more self-aware than the smartest dog or cat. They are our close cousins both figuratively and literally. We shouldn't do anything to a chimp we wouldn't do to a human being.

Then again, given our history of care for our fellow man, I shouldn't expect too much.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:25 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Couldn't they have sent him somewhere that wouldn't happen?" Yeah. A laboratory.

If chimps aren't in the wild, they have a pretty limited number of options:

1) in a zoo, being gawked at
2) in a lab, being ... well, I'll leave that up to you. Let's hope it is language experiments.
3) in a movie, serving as a furry reminder that a co-actor's career is toast
4) in a home, as someone's irascible, face-hungering pet
5) in a stewpot, as bushmeat

A chimp not being gawked at or otherwise serving use in a zoo is a chimp who is on the expense books as a net loss. While retirement homes for chimps probably exist, just as there are for big cats, the waiting list is most likely long, the money is certainly low, and we've got an angry chimp on our hands.
posted by adipocere at 2:26 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


HUMANZEEEEEEE

*extra E's added for emphasis
posted by sararah at 2:31 PM on March 9, 2009


a chimp in a pink tutu ice-skated up to me and without so much as a word punched me in the stomach.

Were you by any chance wearing glasses or sunglasses, ortho?

I read a story a few years ago about a group of blind kids who were taken to the zoo on a field trip, but had to leave with some of them crying because when they went to the chimpanzee exhibit, the chimps went almost instantly ballistic with rage, and the kids were terrified.

The explanation was that the chimps interpreted the lack of eye contact as evidence of aggressive intent.

Considering that chimps have only used sign language until now, maybe punching you in the stomach was a word. You certainly seem to have gotten the message, at least.
posted by jamjam at 2:32 PM on March 9, 2009


I just read this over at BBC News. Poor chimp, really: From his viewpoint, his reaction is pretty reasonable- If I was in his place I'd be stashing and chucking rocks too.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:44 PM on March 9, 2009


Research Finds Chimps Can Plan Stockpiling, Use of Weapons

From their cold, dead furry hands!
posted by Asparagirl at 2:46 PM on March 9, 2009


The explanation was that the chimps interpreted the lack of eye contact as evidence of aggressive intent.

I thought it was the making of eye contact that most primates generally consider a threat. (Think about that crazy guy on the bus; does he like it when you look at him?)

I only searched for a sec and didn't see any easy link either way ...
posted by mrgrimm at 2:49 PM on March 9, 2009


I'm just waiting for Santino to start warning the other chimps in the habitat. I figure he'll point to the rocks, point to the kid by the fence who is just begging to be hit, and point to his missing testicles, as if to say: "Look, try it if you want, but these assholes are serious. They'll just cut your equipment right off if you make 'em mad."

He'll then spend the rest of his life mastering the sign-language to "Are you fucking kidding me? Really? Castration for that? Aw man, what the hell? You guys suck!" so that he can sit by the fence sharing his opinions with anyone who cares to look.
posted by quin at 2:54 PM on March 9, 2009


Maybe it's one of those things where lack of eye contact means rivals are displaying concealed aggressive intent, rather than making eye contact and quickly dropping it. If so, probably another indicator of intelligence. More likely I'd think the chimp would see lack of eye contact as submissive behavior and want to beat on the creatures it could with what it perceived as no fear of reprisal.

Weren't there an earlier instances of chimps saving sticks as their favorite tools to beat female chimps, and chimps saving pointy sticks to stab bushbabies? I'd think this story wouldn't be any more significant than the previous instances.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:59 PM on March 9, 2009


I thought eye contact was important for chimps, and humans. Dogs, on the other hand, don't really make eye contact and only stare when there is food or a threat. That's why dogs and monkeys don't get on (according to Konrad Lorenz). We tend to judge people who avoid eye contact as either shy or rude. Now balls should just be left be - only a human would consider removing the testicles as a way of modifying behaviour. What a lack of bollox.
posted by Elmore at 3:06 PM on March 9, 2009


I found this on Citizendium(?):

After two males have fought there is often reconciliation. During the reconciliation processes both males are unarmed and there is a large amount of eye contact. During conflict male chimpanzees avoid eye contact. Opponents sit across from each other for what could be hours at a time until they manage to make eye contact. After eye contact is made they look into each others eyes until the reconciliation is complete.[13] Chimpanzees have also been seen to make truces for the night when they return to their sleeping quarters in captivity.[14]

posted by jamjam at 3:10 PM on March 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


“my opinion is that any animal that shows this level of complex thinking should have been rewarded with being separated from the source of his agitation and taken care of some place else.”

Yeah. I’m reminded of that gorilla that protected the little kid that wound up in their enclosure. I felt pretty strongly about that. Really touched me. And I hear they had to put him down because he was getting too close to humans.
Just a damned shame. Zoos are a bit of a catch 22. They’ve evolved from a sort of animal freak show to a conservation operation, but I find it ironic that we need them to feel our connectedness to nature and yet, we so often destroy that very thing. By the same token reserving wildlife space, you can’t really go and see them. In some cases, unless you’re going to destroy them.
I love hunting, but the irony doesn’t escape me. And yet, hunting at least recognizes and constrains what is apparently our nature to destroy (Although, that’s merely destroy – not pervert and annihilate I don’t go out and capture a deer and confine it in a small space and cut its testicles off).
By the same token there is some degree of sacrifice for the chimps in the zoo since they are making it possible – I suppose – for other chimps to live in the wild and have a habitat through revenues and through providing that (limited) connection with nature. And you can’t have them throwing stones at the people who wouldn’t fork over the money to provide their kind with space otherwise.

“1) in a zoo, being gawked at…
5) in a stewpot, as bushmeat”
6) shot into space.

So in some respects, they are sacrifices.
Doesn’t make it ‘right’ really. I’ve gone hunting and done nothing but watch. Oh, I might look like I’m going to shoot because I’ve got something in my scope. But mostly, I like watching animals do animal things. Tracked and watched a bear for many hours he didn’t even know I was there (until the wind shifted). Sat and watched hawks take prey. Owls take field mice. Sunk in one time just watching deer eat I had a fox run right over me. It’s nice to be that stealthy, but I felt honored. Just part of it all, in tune.
But folks tend to fetishize nature, as a thing apart. Even (some of) the ‘environmentalists’ I meet. They’ve never been deep in the mud, out in the woods, eating bugs or deer meat or whatever is there and just sinking in. Being part of nature rather than regarding it as a presentation of some sort.
Zoos sometimes take good care of the animals, but for me it just isn’t the same. And I’m sure they feel the same way.
But I think of the staff thinking “what do we do?”
Yeah, I don’t know either. Give them more space, work on habitat conservation, etc. But I don’t know man. Lot of theories on how the Neanderthals died out. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if we eradicated them. Hell, we even do it to ourselves. Not even over superficial physical traits like skin color (although that too) but over how to codify ideas on how to be nice to each other.
Still, chimp throws a rock at me I’m firing one back, and I don’t know a lot of chimps that used to play baseball.

I remember reading something in National Geographic. They found evidence of a battle between a troop of chimps (or some other close cousin) and a group of proto-humans. And they were saying it was mostly hurled rocks and the chimps seemed to have the advantage for a while (stronger) but they eased off and the the humans got the upper hand and didn’t relent. They found chimp bones under a huge pile (tons) of throwing sized stones which gradually got larger. Which means they took their time to really make sure the chimps were all dead.
We’re an angry, angry primate that doesn't stop being angry for a long time.

And a lot of the time we’re so aggressive that we forget the damage we’re doing, because we do it in calm. Sure the chimp had to be castrated. And, yeah, he did. But why – in the first place? Well ‘cos we took their land and destroyed most of them and now we’re mitigating that somewhat but meantime we’re caging them and cutting off their balls.

Among our own species that show advanced levels of complex thinking, we tend to ostracize them at best, and force the source of their frustration upon them, and if they begin to succeed we tend to kill them. Or again isolate them by adulation. And then we co-opt their message and fetishize them again.

Angry f’ing primates man.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:13 PM on March 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Llamas have the reputation of nipping each others balls off in mating competitions-- that must be what those long necks are really for.

And chimpanzees have made a particular point of biting off the testicles of humans they've attacked, and presumably that's not so easy through cloth, perhaps suggesting an instinctive component to the behavior, though I've never seen an account of them doing that to each other in the wild or captivity.
posted by jamjam at 3:23 PM on March 9, 2009


Let he who is without stones castrate the first chimp.
posted by Elmore at 3:34 PM on March 9, 2009


It's really odd that most of the commenters here are focusing on the castration aspect, rather than a confirmation of chimpanzee consciousness appearing in a scientific journal. Worried about your own stones, gentlemen?

This seems to be a pretty important observation. The more aware we are of apes as creatures with some level of consciousness, the less likely we are to do fucked-up shit like this to them. Also, it's this type of science that might make passage of legislation like the Great Ape Protection Act more likely.

Yes, the castration aspect sucks. But gawking at the ape's castration, even in sympathy, strikes me as the same sort of douchey "look at the wacky monkey" behavior that made the ape want to throw some rocks in the first place.
posted by the_bone at 4:33 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


So zoos are places to go to get stoned? Man, if I'd known that, I'd have gone a lot more!
posted by jamstigator at 5:34 PM on March 9, 2009


The eye contact deal: Keeping eye contact has always been the sign of aggression, through the fair amount of reading and Attenborough-type stuff I have seen (chimp and gorilla related).

Perhaps, because the kids were blind, they'd be 'staring' straight at the chimps because they were searching for them using their ears - it'd make sense that locating the animals through the use of stereo sound principles would then leave them effectively holding eye contact with the chimps.

Just a thought. I've certainly never heard of lack or eye contact being a sign of aggression.
posted by Brockles at 5:49 PM on March 9, 2009


It's creepy how similar chimps are to humans. I can't tell you how many times I've scratched my anus, sniffed it, and subsequently fallen off the log I was squatting upon.
posted by bjork24 at 6:39 PM on March 9, 2009


If I were a monkey, I'd take castration and an easy life over life in the wild any day.

In fact, skip the "if I were a monkey" part.
posted by Xezlec at 6:51 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


bone, we've pretty much known that chimps do things like this for a long time. So I, for one, am not really surprised that this chimp did this thing that certainly seemed to be well within his mental abilities. I mean, crows use tools and plan ahead, too, but not a one o' them fuckers can smoke a cigar nor ride a unicycle.

So really, to many of the commenters here, the castration is the remarkable thing–and it seems remarkably unfair to a lot of us.
posted by Mister_A at 7:13 PM on March 9, 2009


I can't believe you people aren't all on the bandwagon to exterminate every last one of these apes before it's too late.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:30 PM on March 9, 2009


Why are so many of you (a) being weirdly over-protective of your balls and (b) projecting your neuroses onto this animal?

It was the right decision on the zoo's part. Santino will be much happier this way.

adipocere: I thought you may be interested in this piece on a retirement home for lab chimps.
posted by magic curl at 7:30 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The technical paper isn't available right now due to some outage at ScienceDirect, bummer.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 7:36 PM on March 9, 2009


The BBC piece doesn't even mention that Santino the chimp has been castrated. Did they not think that detail to be relevant?
posted by longsleeves at 8:00 PM on March 9, 2009


"If I were a monkey, I'd take castration and an easy life over life in the wild any day."

You are a monkey. And we have made that choice. Although not the literal castration. But we are in our habitat. It's just that we're so aggressive and successful a predator we've beaten the wild into working for us and edged out other species to such a degree that they have to adapt to our habitat. Sure, there's lots of bananas...
Their 'wild' is our comfy sofa. And vice versa. So it's not an easy life for them. They belong in the environment they're adapted to. Which is why we need to set land aside for them. Zoo's are 'easy' in the minds of humans. To them it's like being in prison. Or, removing the 'locked up' metaphor - any static microcosm of society. Imagine being stuck in a High school. For the rest of your life. Sure, there's lots of tator tots....

"I've certainly never heard of lack or eye contact being a sign of aggression."

Y'know - eye contact, no eye contact, play dead, expand your body with your jacket, I wish the animals would all get together and just lay out a pamphlet or something on one thing we could do to show we're not trying to be aggressive. I mean the "don't give us wet willies" thing is working out pretty well from our end. Animals bare their teeth and claws, but they haven't wet anything and stuck it in our ears (well, one monkey from a joke, but that's a whole other thing).
posted by Smedleyman at 10:10 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I've certainly never heard of lack or eye contact being a sign of aggression."

O RLY?
posted by Skeptic at 3:00 AM on March 10, 2009


Wouldn't a rock-throwing chimp be a danger to other chimps as well? Thus the fence option isn't really viable. And you can't release him. So what were they supposed to do?
posted by DU at 5:03 AM on March 10, 2009


Wouldn't a rock-throwing chimp be a danger to other chimps as well?

Not any more than they usually are. Chimps can't really throw all that well or hard - it's h. sapiens who wins the gold in that competition.

Thus the fence option isn't really viable. And you can't release him. So what were they supposed to do?


Your premise was incorrect so your conclusion is as well. I'm shocked by how many of you think castration of an adult ape is hilarious and an appropriate reaction. I don't think the castration will change his behavior, and I don't think it will make him safer to be around. Oh, and it's incredibly unethical.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:13 AM on March 10, 2009


Optimus I don't think the castration will change his behavior

Citation please. I'm shocked that you seem to be unaware of the relationship between sex organs and hormone production, and between testosterone and aggression. Properly explicate your argument if I've missed something here.

Ethics and science are different. Important, but different. Your conflation serves neither.
posted by Sweetdefenestration at 9:40 AM on March 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Talapoin monkeys, not chimps, but it's a start if you want to debate this more methodically. Emphasis added.

"Testosterone, aggressive behavior and dominance rank in captive adult male talapoin monkeys (miopithecus talapoin)", Physiology & Behavior, Volume 18, Issue 3, March 1977, Pages 539-543

In three captive groups of talapoin monkeys, gonadectomized females usually ranked above males despite the larger size of the latter. Gonadectomized males sometimes ranked above intact ones. When gonadectomized females were treated with oestradiol some increase in aggression between the sexes occurred but this was not statistically significant. When gonadectomized males were treated with testosterone, however, they became more aggressive to subordinate males but not to more dominant males or females. Factors such as physical condition and previous social experience may be more important than gonadal hormones in influencing aggressive interactions in these captive groups of talapoins.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:39 AM on March 10, 2009


It probably varies with the individual animal.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:42 AM on March 10, 2009


"Seasonal variation and social correlates of androgen excretion in male redfronted lemurs (Eulemur fulvus rufus)," Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Volume 52, Number 6, November, 2002. Emphasis added.

The aim of this study was to examine effects of seasonal and social factors on male androgen excretion in a seasonally breeding primate living in multimale-multifemale groups. By combining detailed behavioural observations (>2,500 h) on 3 groups of redfronted lemurs living in Kirindy Forest/Madagascar with non-invasive hormone analysis of >800 faecal samples collected concomitantly from the same animals, we tested predictions on: (1) the effect of social status on immunoreactive testosterone (iT) excretion; (2) seasonal variation of iT across reproductive periods; and (3) the relationship between aggression and iT excretion. The study lasted 14 months, covering two mating and one birth season. The results revealed that males fall into two distinct social classes, with one dominant male and several subordinate males in each group. In contrast to our prediction, the behavioural differences between these two classes were not reflected by differences in androgen levels, making physiological suppression of testicular function an unlikely mechanism of male reproductive competition. As expected for a seasonally breeding animal, iT values were elevated during the mating season. Androgen levels tracked the increase in the rate of reproductive aggression during the mating season as predicted by the challenge hypothesis. An increase in aggression due to spontaneous social instability outside the mating season, however, was not linked to a parallel rise of iT. Furthermore, the highest iT levels were obtained during the birth season, which may be part of a male strategy to remain aggressive during this period of high infanticide risk. These findings suggest that redfronted lemurs do not respond with increases in androgens to short-term challenges and that high androgen levels instead correlate with longer-lasting and predictable situations, such as the mating and birth seasons.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:04 PM on March 10, 2009


Cutting off his balls will lessen his testosterone production, but won't necessarily change his rock-throwing behavior, as Optimus Chyme notes (and cites).

But it will cause other changes, some good (testosterone's similarity to cortisol probably shortens male lifespans), some bad. Whatever the effects, castration is irreversible and lessens available genetic diversity in a threatened species. And it affects the animal's quality of life.

It's not just a male "oh gawd my balls!" reaction to prefer that drastic and irreversible measures not be taken until less drastic and reversible means have failed; this is normal prudence in all decisions. In your own life, it generally preferable to chose lifestyle changes over drug therapy, drugs over non-surgical procedures, non-surgical procedures over surgery with local anesthetic, surgery with a local over (inherently risky) general anesthesia.

Especially with primates, we have a duty of care (or we should) that precludes using the animals for our needs and ignoring their own. Our desire to merely gawk at a primate should not override that animal's welfare, as I'm afraid happened in this case. A fence coul have been built, behavior modification could have been tried, the animal could have been moved to a non-zoo sanctuary. Going in and cutting off his balls seems clumsy and crude and frankly savage, the act of a callous carny profiteer, not of a supposedly enlightened zoo.
posted by orthogonality at 3:18 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Their 'wild' is our comfy sofa. And vice versa. So it's not an easy life for them. They belong in the environment they're adapted to. Which is why we need to set land aside for them. Zoo's are 'easy' in the minds of humans. To them it's like being in prison.

That's a surprisingly confident assertion. How do you know this?

We aren't adapted to sofas, of course. We invented them. The environment we're adapted to is the harsh world of the hunter-gatherer, a world in which hunger and violence are the only abundance, and the only thing that keeps populations in check is the fact that the rate of death matches the rate of birth (which would have been a whole lot more than the 2.5 kids per family in our modern, birth-controlled lives). The two strongest kids make it. The rest fail and die.

I happen to think "survival of the fittest" sucks, and I'm glad we (well, at least social democrats) are trying to put it behind us. I wish we could somehow help other creatures do the same. It just doesn't seem fair. But what are we going to do? Well, there's not much we can do, so our defense mechanism against feeling bad for them is to delude ourselves into believing that their lives in the wild are like some idyllic Disney film. I can't convince myself of that.

And I don't know that zoos are easy in the minds of most humans. I could have been wrong, but I always assumed it was your idea that was the more popular, less realistic, more anthropomorphic one. I mean, it looks like a prison, and a human might be miserable in those circumstances (I don't know that I would be, but I'm pretty weird), so we assume that the same is true for animals. Maybe chimps don't like it, I don't know, but the people who make these decisions seem to know more about it than me.

Shouldn't we maybe give the zookeepers the benefit of the doubt here? How do we know it wasn't the best option? Do we know the fence idea wasn't already proposed and shot down for some reason? Do we know there weren't other factors involved? What's so great about balls anyway? Mine barely work, but I still don't wish I was more macho.

OK, I guess I'm really arguing this because I don't like "ballsy" people, and I kind of secretly suspect it would be a better world if everyone suddenly became androgynous. But I still don't think I'm being totally wrongheaded here.
posted by Xezlec at 10:14 PM on March 10, 2009


Shouldn't we maybe give the zookeepers the benefit of the doubt here? How do we know it wasn't the best option? Do we know the fence idea wasn't already proposed and shot down for some reason? Do we know there weren't other factors involved? What's so great about balls anyway? Mine barely work, but I still don't wish I was more macho.

Some zoos are run and staffed by professionals who have the animals' best interest at heart; others by mercenary corporations and profit-first executives.

Castrating a smart, aggressive, adult male chimp will not turn him into Good Sir Cuddles of the Nice-Nice Brigade. The data backs this up. It was a stupid, cruel, and pointless decision made by people who should have known better.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:25 PM on March 10, 2009


No one wants to refute my citations, apparently, so let's conclude that castrating an adult male chimp in an effort to control or change his behavior is ineffective and unethical.

----------8<--------------
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:01 AM on March 11, 2009


Don't discount revenge as a motive on the part of the zookeepers.

I'd bet that chimp made their lives miserable, and that they really disliked him. I wouldn't take any satisfaction from it if I were that chimp, but enmity returned would amount to a back-handed acknowledgment of him as a person.

And now, his fame may expose them to humiliation far more effectively even than any amount of feces-flinging-- and I wouldn't discount that as a source of satisfaction for the researchers, either.
posted by jamjam at 8:29 AM on March 11, 2009


OC's citations are interesting and do provide some insight; the differences between the cited environments and the case at hand are as notable as the citation's extensive emphasis.

The citation states that "the highest iT levels were obtained during the birth season, which may be part of a male strategy to remain aggressive during this period of high infanticide risk." So, here it seems as if the authors were studying iT response, which has a higher correlation to the primary outcome of mating.

What we're seeing here is the reverse of the article's premise. That is not to say that physical castration will result in less aggressive behavior, but suggests that there is a correlation between iT and aggression vis-a-vis mating patterns.

At the zoo, there is a single adult alpha male with a harem of female chimps, of unknown fertility. Fodder for thought and further investigation, certainly.

As for revenge, I'd bet more on limiting legal liability (particularly after warning visitors and the attempt at fencing was deemed insufficient). From a research, prod-the-odd-one perspective, it's a shame that his lineage potential has been, er, cut off.

I reserve any conclusions of efficacy till this chimp is re-exposed to the environment and his behavior is observed. (I smell a follow-up post.)
posted by Sweetdefenestration at 1:48 PM on March 11, 2009


Thanks for following up, SD. There's not a lot of research done on castration and physical aggression in great apes, but I maintain that the data on postpubescent primates that have been gonadectomized weighs heavily in my argument's favor. This is a behavioral issue, and in smart complex animals like chimps, there's no magic off switch. I'm also interested to see what happens next, although I wish the castration had never occured.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:51 PM on March 12, 2009


Wow, so the idea that castration reduces aggression is an urban myth? Is that true about the whole idea of a relationship between testosterone and aggression as well? In that case, I am as surprised as you that the zoo didn't know that.

Nonetheless, I still don't really understand what's so great about testosterone and what's so cruel about losing it. But I'll have to take your word for it, as I have no experience with castration beyond neutered pets, which you assert are an entirely different thing from apes. Having little knowledge of that subject, I'll have to defer to your expertise, I suppose.

Still, you'll forgive me if I continue to delude myself with the thought that I'm not missing much.
posted by Xezlec at 7:46 PM on March 12, 2009


Wow, so the idea that castration reduces aggression is an urban myth? Is that true about the whole idea of a relationship between testosterone and aggression as well?

I'm neither a professional biologist, endocrinologist, zoologist, or chimp handler, so I'm not speaking ex cathedra here. There is a definite link between testosterone and aggression, but it is only one part of a complex system. The link between testosterone and sexual aggression seem to be much greater than the link between testosterone and social aggression. There's also kind of a causality issue.

Nonetheless, I still don't really understand what's so great about testosterone and what's so cruel about losing it.

I read your earlier post. It's not cruel for him to have low levels of plasma testosterone, it's cruel to anesthetize an ape and gonadectomize him because he is clever and aggressive. And it's totally pointless.

But I'll have to take your word for it, as I have no experience with castration beyond neutered pets, which you assert are an entirely different thing from apes.

We spay and neuter dogs and cats so that we don't have to euthanize (kill) their offspring. There are not shelters filled to overflowing with unadopted chimpanzees. Also, dogs and cats are not nearly as intelligent as the great apes, and there's a continuum of acceptable methods in which we as caretakers should engage.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:09 AM on March 13, 2009


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