A marine biologist asks me whether gorillas indulge in cross-dressing. I eye him warily. A lot of these underwater boffins are kinky devils, gliding beneath the waves in their rubber suits so they can touch up unsuspecting turtles.

“We gorillas only wear clothes on special occasions,” I reply. “In a few days time we shall celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar in Royal Navy uniforms. The females will technically be in drag, but don’t even think about getting into that scene. They’d dress you up as a French cabin boy and subject your bottom to the grossest indecencies.”

“Erm…that’s very interesting,” he mumbles. “The reason I ask is because male octopi sometimes disguise themselves as females as a mating strategy.”

“Why would that be of any help?” I ask. “Even if the female octopi were sapphists they’d soon smell a rat. You can only fool all of the females with some of your parts.”

“Well that’s not really the point,” he explains. “The weaker males pretend to be females so they can approach the real females without being attacked by the dominant males.”

“Now I get you! They use camouflage to sneak past the escorting vessels so they can fire their torpedoes at close range! An ingenious tactical manoeuvre, but not feasible in primate society. Female apes don’t mate with transvestites. If Danny La Rue had been a gorilla he would never have got laid.”

The deep-sea detective scratches his chin and nods, referring me to a
newspaper article before retiring for the night.

It seems that octopi are much cleverer than I thought, but I still don’t like them: they are mean, sulky creatures, who hide in crevices and squirt you with ink if you accidentally tread on their toes. The villainous Ernst Blofeld should have been stroking a pet octopus rather than a white cat. How odd that the only woman over 40 that James Bond ever bedded called herself ‘Octopussy’ and made the critter the symbol of her all-girl kick-boxing club. If memory serves, one of the bad guys got a face full of sucking octopus when he shattered the indoor aquarium. Sex maniacs, the lot of them.

Yet no amount of enmity would ever persuade me to eat an octopus. Along with serpent and swine, its flesh is forbidden to gorillas. The practice of devouring one’s foes is a nauseating habit invented by chimpanzees and copied by primitive humans. There is a pit somewhere in New Mexico containing the bones of butchered humans. When it was discovered, fossilised human turds were found on top of the remains. “Kill your enemies, eat their flesh and shit on their bones” was apparently the motto of those prehistoric savages. It took many millennia before humans learned to give their fallen foes a decent burial, as we gorillas have always done.

Of course, the use of deadly force is very rare in gorilla society, partly because it conflicts with our pacifist beliefs, but also because of the extensive range of non-lethal techniques we’ve developed. Nothing will ever beat climbing a tree and dropping a coconut on an intruder’s bonce – it’s the most insouciant method of incapacitation ever devised. Humans, meanwhile, are still experimenting with dubious innovations involving
sausages-coshes and spice-rubs. It’s the mark of a species driven by malice rather than economy of effort.

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