Exotic species

Isn’t Davy Attenborough wonderful? I’m not just saying so because he makes us laugh by mimicking our grunts. There’s a lot more to life than being funny. We gorillas have always admired the righteous human who does good deeds and stands serene in the shadow of the hippopotamus. The comedian may excite our sniggers, but we only suck our teeth in reverence for the Gandhis, the Christs and the Spielbergs. “Blessed are the do-gooders for they shall be done good,” as we say in the jungle.

Anyway, Davy got in touch with me a few weeks ago with a revolutionary idea. He said that although many humans were eager to see their ape cousins in the wild, few had the time or the cash to visit us in the Mother Continent. So he proposed installing webcams in the favourite jungle haunts of me and my tribe. People could then watch us live, in the comfort of their homes, instead of paying a fortune to wade through the undergrowth while being molested by creepy crawlies. He envisaged a kind of wildlife reality TV show – more Hairy Cousin than Big Brother.

“Davy,” I replied, “if anyone else had thought of this, I would have said it was a stroke of genius. As you yourself have done so, I will describe it merely as brilliant. Unfortunately it won’t work. Our corner of the jungle, you see, is like Los Angeles. Every simian in the neighbourhood would play up to the cameras in the hope of catching the eye of a movie producer. The chimpanzees would tap dance and do slapstick. The gorillas would put on costumes and imitate famous Dickensian characters – Mr Pickwick in his waistcoat, Scrooge in his nightgown, Miss Havisham in her wedding dress. What you’ll end up with is a jungle talent show rather than a wildlife documentary.”

I might have added that the baboons, being spoilers by nature, would moon and flash in front of the cameras, possibly exhibiting their infamous “handpump the hornpipe” spectacle. But there was no need to dirty Davy’s ears with such sordid possibilities. He saw straight away that there was little point in a Nature programme featuring animals with show business ambitions. He said he’d try pitching his idea in other parts of the globe, and I’m delighted to report that it has
proved to be a goer in the rainforests of Ecuador. Incredibly, it is hoped that human couch potatoes might actually discover new species by obsessively ogling their laptops.

When I say “new species”, I mean new to humanity of course. The mysterious little critters of the Amazonian jungle are certainly well-known to themselves and their neighbours on the food chain. I sometimes think there are new species of human that have yet to be discovered by apes. I get this feeling whenever I see Björk, the pixie pop-star from Iceland. Although not unpleasant in appearance, she does seem to be part elf or something. Her voice evokes the image of a 5-year-old girl singing a lullaby to her Teddy Bear. After listening for a few minutes, I want to tuck her up in bed and switch off the lights.

Björk has recently been
in the news for tearing the shirt off a man who took her picture against her wishes. A British tourist at the safari camp blamed the incident on the vanity of celebrities. They were so used to having their pictures touched up, he said, that they couldn’t bear to be photographed as they really were. To prove his point, he showed me two recent photos of the English model Twiggy. The first, which was used in an advertising campaign, was of a good-looking blond woman. The second, which was taken secretly in a shop, was of a frightful old belter. Case proven, he seemed to think.

I was far from convinced by his theory. Björk may be a funny-looking imp, but her natural features have not degraded to a condition that would require her to choose between digital prettification or a paper bag over the head. I interpreted her reaction to the paparazzo as that of a territorial primate whose privacy had been violated by an uppity intruder.

“The photographer should think himself lucky that he was not snapping a gorilla,” I informed the tourist loftily, “for then he would have lost not only shirt, but vest, trousers and briefs as well!”

That was telling him.

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