The Great Escape

Tourists have been asking me for my views on the great chimpanzee breakout from Chester Zoo in England. I tell them it is an event comparable with the mass escape of allied POWs from Stalag Lufters Drei (or whatever the place was called). The alpha males who organised the exploit no doubt modelled themselves on Steve McQueen, Dickie Attenborough and the other stars of The Great Escape. Not David McCallum, of course, who was too pretty for a chimpanzee. Nor Gordon Jackson, who was too Scottish.

“Does this prove that chimps and humans are closely related?” asks a man who could have passed for either.

“Yes,” I answer. “Like humans, chimpanzees deeply resent being imprisoned against their will. They despise the guards who withhold their fruit ration if they misbehave. They detest being stared at by fat children with ice cream all over their faces. Is it any wonder that they secretly dig tunnels and forge travel documents in preparation for a daring escape?”

“How do they keep their spirits up?” he asks

“By whistling a
catchy tune which expresses their cheeky defiance in the face of adversity,” I reply.

Having said all that, I’m glad they were caught soon after the breakout. A secure enclosure in a zoo is a far better place for them than the mean streets of Chester. Like most English towns, its public spaces are infested with surly adolescents, gossiping fishwives and undercover policemen on the lookout for kinky sex. Not a safe environment for chimpanzees by any stretch of the imagination.

Even if they’d made it to the countryside their position would have been hopeless. There are no neutral countries bordering England that would have offered them refuge. Scotland is actually an enemy country, but its menfolk have no love of chimps, viewing them as unwelcome competition. Wales, by contrast, is an ape-friendly nation, but its inhabitants are craven patsies of the English. Fugitives from across the border are hunted down by posses of squat-necked rugby players and handed over to the haughty minions of the Crown.

“Back you go, my hairy boyos!” they would have said to the hapless chimps. “The last time we played silly buggers with the English we got longshanked by King Edward I and what have you! Don’t involve us into your quarrels!”

The only human organisation that genuinely supports chimp freedom is NASA, which liberated a good number of them from the surface of the Earth back in the 1960s. Some people claim that the space-chimps were mere guinea pigs, but the same could be said of Armstrong and Aldrin, who were dispatched to the moon to show how bouncy its surface was. Firing a giant tennis ball into space would have achieved the same result, yet Neil and Buzz were determined to risk their lives as their chimp cousins had done.

This explains why the chimpanzees of the Congo celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission by getting pissed and raping a few baboons. Primate brotherhood is truly a wonderful thing.

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