Men of Nature's calling

Someone suggested that we gorillas should hold a memorial service for Steve Irwin, the Australian crocodile cuddler who was perforated by a deadly sea monster. Much as I lamented the news of his demise, I nevertheless argued against it. Mr Irwin, peace be upon him, was obsessed with a single animal species. There’s nothing wrong with that, if the decencies are observed, but it does tend to divert attention from the big picture. Furthermore, I can’t think of a creature less appreciative of being hugged by a human than a crocodile. As far as I could tell, most of them couldn’t wait to wriggle out of his grasp and take refuge at the bottom of the garden pool.

The funny thing is that if Irwin had come to the Congo he would have found umpteen female gorillas queuing up for a dose of slap and tickle. The human male is something of an exotic sex toy for my hairy sisters, who are fascinated by his texture and smell. After passing through their clutches, a meaty fellow like Irwin would have found out what a tenderized steak feels like. Cuddle a female gorilla and she’ll cuddle you back with interest.

Now Ray Mears, the bush survival expert, is a man whose death I certainly would mourn, not least because he’s a personal friend who has twice stayed with my band. The first visit had to be cut short after Raymond insisted on living exactly as we did, eating his termites raw and licking the moisture off frogs. He was struck down with dysentery and had to be carried back to the safari camp with his shorts pulled down to his ankles, so his effusions could dribble onto the ground.

On the second visit, he wisely agreed to abandon his “do as the Romans do” policy and came equipped with water purification tablets, canvas tent, gas stove and other human essentials. Things went a lot better as a result, and by the end of his stay the youngsters were calling him ‘Uncle Lumpy’. The females had other affectionate nicknames for him which I wouldn’t care to repeat.

On his last night in the jungle he cooked a magnificent feast for us: snake meat and fish were barbecued on wooden skewers; yams, peppers and a dead lizard were roasted in a sizzling underground oven. You humans can keep your Fanny Cradocks, Kenny Homs and Jimmy Olivers – I’ll take the simple jungle fare of Mearsy every time. You don’t need fancy marinades and vinegrettes to delight the palate of a gorilla.

We opened a keg of our best fermented coconut juice to wash down the food and prolong the festivities into the night. Humans usually hold their liquor better than gorillas, so it surprised me when Raymond was the first to plead grogginess and retire to his tent. He didn’t emerge next morning until the sun was high in the sky, looking decidedly red-eyed and dishevelled.

“I had this terrible dream GB,” he said. “Some big hairy beast was holding me down and squeezing me all over my body.”

“It must have been the coconut brew, Raymond,” I said. “It can have that effect if you’re not used to it.”

“That’s what I thought,” replied Mearsy. “But my muscles ache all over and I can definitely feel a bruise on my left buttock. Would you mind looking at it?”

Examining a man’s hindquarters is not one of my preferred pastimes, but a sturdy fellow like Ray Mears wouldn’t have made a fuss about some trivial abrasion. So we found a discreet spot in the undergrowth where Mearsy pulled down his khaki shorts and I crouched down to inspect his rear. I was horrified by what I saw. Amid a welter of red marks was an enormous hickey on which primate teeth marks were clearly visible. It was obvious what had happened. One of the females had spiked his drink and infiltrated his tent for a night of chubby-chewing.

Although honesty is normally my preferred policy, there are always exceptions to every rule. One of them is when a female from my band sexually assaults a famous BBC presenter whose august employer might sue the Bananas Estate.

“It looks like you’ve been bitten by a creeping arse-bug, Raymond,” I said. “I’ll get some ointment to ease the discomfort.”

“Creeping arse-bug?” inquired Mearsy with a puzzled look on his face. “I’ve not heard of that one before. What is it GB?”

“It’s a mutant tarantula with rodent-like teeth,” I explained. “A rare nocturnal beast with a taste for hippos and humans. I believe the late President Amin had his troubles with them.”

I dressed Raymond’s wound as best I could, giving him strict instructions not to remove the plaster for a week. His porters arrived later that morning, and I bade him a cordial farewell, looking daggers at any female who approached him for a parting embrace.

After Mearsy had left, I summoned the females for a staff meeting and read them the riot act. I didn’t try to identify the culprit – it was probably a team effort anyway. I simply said that anyone who pulled a stunt like that again would be sent to live with the chimpanzees for a month, which would be social death for a gorilla. I’m not going to pay a fortune in damages because some hairy bitch can’t keep her teeth to herself.

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