The Chimpanzee and the Egg: p. 135 of IN THE SHADOW OF MAN

The more self thinks about it, the more she thinks there is something less than desirable in the title of this book by Jane Goodall.  Why must the chimpanzee be compared to man at all, is what self is thinking.  If everything has to be framed in context of “how much like man,” then you’re not really seeing, you’re just comparing.  And is that really good science, or what.

Anyhoo, Goodall’s book still fascinates.  She’s a very engaging writer.  No one knew much about chimpanzees until she came along.  The world is still in her debt.

Self has finished the section on female chimpanzees in estrus (extremely fascinating) and on social hierarchies (apparently, female chimpanzees are more likely to hold grudges than male chimpanzees).

Now here we are at how much the friendly chimpanzees love eggs.  The characters mentioned in the excerpt below — Mr. McGregor, Mr. Worzle, and Flo — are chimpanzees.  Edna is a (human) assistant.

We also had to keep our egg supply very carefully hidden.  Mr. McGregor, Mr. Worzle, and Flo were the three chimps who most loved eggs.  One day old McGregor managed to make off with four hard-boiled eggs that Edna had prepared for lunch — and it was well worth the loss for the laugh he gave us.  The chimpanzee almost always eats an egg together with a large mouthful of leaves; only when sufficient leaves have been stuffed into his mouth along with an egg does he crack the shell.  Then he sits savoring the egg-leaf wad for minutes on end.

Mr. McGregor looked startled when he put the first of the eggs into his mouth — no wonder, for it was hot.  He took it out, looked at it carefully, sniffed it, and shoved it back in with copious handfuls of leaves.  Then we heard him crack the shell.  This was obviously even more puzzling: no delicious liquids ran into his mouth.  He spat out the whole mess of leaves and egg and stared at it.  He tried all four eggs, each time stuffing in more and more fresh leaves, until he was surrounded by fragments of white and yellow eggs and mounds of crumpled greenery.

Goodall even, believe it or not, names one of the chimpanzees “Leakey,” presumably in honor of her most supportive patron, the renowned archaeologist Louis B. Leakey.  Self simply cannot describe how strange the effect is of reading sentences like “Leakey poked me in the belly” and so forth.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.


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