You say baboon, I say bamboo

April 2, 2008 at 11:05 am 5 comments

     I recently accompanied C’s class on a field trip to the zoo, despite my general discomfort at animals kept in cages. He loves animals, but the zoo is a place that doesn’t hold his interest for long as so often the animals are too far away to really see, are inactive, or they just aren’t doing anything particularly interesting. C is a man of action and he expects the animals to be the same way. This time, the baboons didn’t disappoint. There’s a spot where human and baboon can nearly touch each other save a pane of thick glass for which I became very thankful. Face to face they stood and I was forced to wonder who was watching whom in this interaction. C put his hand up on the glass and the baboon went nuts. Slapping at C’s hand as if he could move it, retreating and then attacking C by slamming against him on the glass, and baring his teeth at C as if he had completely invaded his space. Screaming with delight and laughter, the children continued to watch as C moved his hand up and down the glass as the baboon kept hitting at him. I had to pry him away despite my fascination with the entire episode.

     Why C? I wondered. There were ten other kids, all dressed in the same class t-shirt, standing right there. Yet the baboon locked his eyes on C and did not back down until I dragged C away from the glass. I like to think C has a special connection to animals, but I’ve never seen it play out in this somewhat frightening way before. I am a firm believer in evolution and genetics, so I don’t consider it an insult to think that perhaps the baboon recognized a kindred soul and wondered why they were on different sides of the glass. Alas, I’m probably giving way too much self-awareness to the baboon, but the entire episode was beyond odd to me.

     As I pondered the strangeness of the event and we walked away from the exhibit, C summed it up quite well. “Those bamboos were kind of scary, weren’t they, Momma?”

Entry filed under: autism. Tags: , , , , , , .

Risky Business All in good time

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. jesch30  |  April 2, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    Cool. I wonder what Jane Goodall would say about that…

    I think Jane already answered….see comments!

  • 2. Good Fountain  |  April 2, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    That is really interesting!

  • 3. Dennette Farwell  |  April 3, 2008 at 1:51 am

    Looking baboons directly in the eye is a THREAT. The baboon happpened to lock eyes with C so he attacked, as he would have if the animal locked eyes with any other creature. In the wild, you must deliberately avoid looking a baboon in the wild or they will attack you. This is part of their culture.

    And of course that makes perfect sense. It just felt like in this crowd of people and animals, C and the baboon could’ve been all alone. So I like my explanation that C and the baboon shared an intimate connection better. 😉 Thanks for the info as of course you are correct! And I call myself an anthropologist….well, I don’t really, but I do have the degrees! LOL!

  • 4. Sheila  |  April 9, 2008 at 3:23 am

    May I suggest “Animals in Translation” by Temple Grandin? It’s quite the eye-opener. Speaking of strange things like the baboon and C’s experience together, I have one to share myself.

    I’m an Aspergers person grown up. When I’m out in public shopping, very young children (in strollers and/or toddlers) lock eyes with me in a way that I notice they don’t do with other people. It’s almost embarrassing. I even have kids who are walking along side their mother until they see me and then they stare and begin to drift my way. My husband thinks they’re drawn to be because they feel safe. I have no clue. I just think it’s unusual and interesting.

    That book is sitting in my bedside table at the moment, somewhere in the stack. I’ve heard many good things about it, and it has been on my list forever! You know, I have often had a similar experience with babies and toddlers. I’ve always wondered about it, because I’m not particularly warm and fuzzy with kids I don’t know. Maybe your “safe” interpretation is spot on. Something to think about…

  • 5. Sheila  |  April 9, 2008 at 7:51 am

    I’m not particularly warm and fuzzy with kids I don’t know either.

    I would guess that when a small child smiles at you it’s safe to assume s/he isn’t thinking you’re a threat, huh?

    I’m guessing it’s just that simple, but like you, I still wonder at that particular connection.


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