Bruno the Killer Chimp: What horrors had he seen?
A story on the BBC the other day related how some chimps at a sanctuary in Sierra Leone killed a keeper and seriously wounded some visitors before escaping into the surrounding area. It’s a sad story, not least because the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, where the incident took place, seems to be a place where dedicated work takes place. It’s not the kind of publicity that either Sierra Leone or the chimpanzees need.
What this made myself and my partner Mia think about, however, was how deeply intertwined the psychological scarring of these orphaned chimpanzees and the country where they lived must be. Sierra Leone has just emerged from a devastating civil war, with many human orphans and many human atrocities. Around the world, the endangered primates all live in areas of conflict: Aceh in Indonesia as well as Congo and Rwanda in Africa. It seems that the non-human primates simply cannot escape our warring and rage. And, in this instance, we couldn’t escape theirs.
Perhaps these traumas and the cycles of victimhood and victimization, random cruelty, have bled between the species, and in some perverse way have highlighted that, just as much as chimpanzees and humans share an ancestor that was peaceful and cooperative, we also share a violent and predatory nature that causes us to wage war and kill. It also suggests that, like it or not, our fates, whether horrific or irenic, may be joined together.