Toying with Nature
Lucy Temerlin –
Before you read what
I have to say,
just take a moment to really look at this picture.
Lucy, a chimpanzee born in 1964, was raised by Maurice and
Soon after she was born,
she was removed from the Institute for Primate Studies in Oklahoma and
raised in the Temerlin's home. They made every attempt to make her experience as 'human' as possible. This
was the Temerlin’s intent and part of their grand experiment.
She learned to dress herself, eat at the table with a fork
and knife, flip through magazines, make tea for guests and was eventually
trained to use 140 language signs. She
also developed a liking for gin. Having
never been exposed to other chimps, she also enjoyed looking at pictures of humans
more than her own species. In every way,
her species identity was erased.
As she grew, she became stronger and more aggressive and the
Temerlins were forced to take her to a chimpanzee rehabilitation center in Gambia. She never fully acclimated to her new
A graduate student named
Janis Carter worked with her for several years trying to assist her in her
transition. During that time, Lucy appeared to be depressed and often signed
the word ‘hurt’. Janis eventually had to leave. The photo above was taken after Janis had
been gone for a year and returned for a visit.
Lucy greeted her on the beach, then turned and walked
away with a group of other chimps. Janis
took this as a sign that Lucy had adjusted to her new life in Gambia.
One year later, Lucy
was found dead having most likely been killed by poachers. Because she was so trusting of humans, there
is some thought that she may have approached the poachers instead of running
away from them.
I heard this story on Radio Lab
. I would encourage you to listen to the whole
story to get a better sense of all the dynamics at play.
can’t stop thinking about that photo.
Wikipedia: Janis Carter saying goodbye
at a Chimpanzee Rehab
Center in Gambia