Baboon Literacy

Of all of the animals in the animal kingdom, my favorites are the simians.  I enjoy watching all varieties of monkeys and apes.  Monkeys tend to be cute and athletic and funny, while apes tend to be so humanoid that watching them actually shifts your perspective a bit on what it means to be human.

Don't give them money, though. They will just spend it on drugs.

So, I found this article to be really interesting.  Of course, the baboons weren’t actually reading.  They were just able to guess, more often than not, which four letter combinations were words and which were not.  Which puts them at about the same level as some of my 1st graders.  Pretty darned impressive.  (On the part of the baboons, I mean – not the 1st graders)

The article reminded me of something I saw in Malaysia – in the first week of my vacation there, when I was still thinking it was a pretty cool country, before I got slammed into a detention camp and spent a week behind barbed wire with a few hundred impoverished Indonesians and a ragtag assortment of Africans and Iranians plus one Burmese guy, unluckiest man in the whole world because he knew that however bad things were there, if they ever actually sent him home, he’d be shot.  We showered with cold water out of a hose, slept on a wooden floor, shared a totally shit covered squat toilet and subsisted on one bowl of thin soup, one greasy, bony little fish,  and a couple of pieces of white bread served twice a day.  (It’s another story and I don’t intend to get into it, but if you are planning on visiting Malaysia, INSIST they stamp your passport on the way in).

I was visiting a park/nature reserve, somewhere in the region of Penang, and I saw a sign on the fence saying “Absolutely under no circumstances are you allowed to feed the monkeys inside the park, don’t even think about it, we will fine your ass big time” or words to that effect.

Standing right below the sign, looking just like the beggars in any city in the world, was a monkey with his hand out and a sly look on his face that pretty much said “See, I’m not inside the park, now am I.”

Of course he couldn’t read, being a monkey, but there was no doubt he understood what the sign said.


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