Monday, November 15, 2010
A passage on the proper care of your own great ape, rich in scientific Victorianisms, from Richard Lynch Gardner's Gorillas and Chimpanzees (1898):
From my own observation I assert that all of these apes can undergo a greater range of temperature than they can of humidity. This appears to be one of the essential things to the life of a gorilla, and one fatal mistake made in treating him is furnishing him with a dry, warm atmosphere, and depriving him of the poison contained in the malarious air in which he spends his entire life. Both of these apes need humidity. The chimpanzee will live longer than a gorilla in a dry air, but neither of them can long survive it, and it would appear that a salt atmosphere is best for the gorilla. I believe that one of these apes could be kept in good condition for any length of time if he were supplied with a normal humidity in an atmosphere laden with miasma and allowed to vary in temperature.
...The rule that visitors or strangers should not annoy or tease them should be enforced without respect to person, time, or rank. No visitor should be allowed on any terms to give them any kind of food. The reasons for these precautions are obvious to any one familiar with the keeping of animals, but in the case of a gorilla their observance cannot be waived with impunity.
I'd like to think that Gardner's realization about the teasing of gorillas only came to him after a failed attempt at, perhaps, a zoo where annoyance privileges were handed out based entirely on time and rank.
Image from the excellent Victorian London