One of our guest bloggers, Dr. Sheri Speede, has a great new book released today called Kindred Beings: What Seventy-Three Chimpanzees Taught Me About Life, Love and Connection. Be sure to check it out! Sheri will be doing a book signing tour, and will be stopping in nearby Seattle on October 10th at the Elliott Bay Book Company. We’ll post reminders about the book signing on our Facebook page—you definitely don’t want to miss the chance to meet with Sheri.
You might recall Sheri’s post on Jacky. Here’s an excerpt from her new book about a chimpanzee named Nama.
Sheri Speede’s first interaction with adult female chimpanzee Nama, who was tethered by a five foot chain around her neck for 16 years . . .
As I walked slowly within her reach, she took my arm, and I allowed her to pull me in close to her. I sat down beside her in the wet dirt, trying to avoid the diarrhea. She looked at my face curiously for a few moments, glancing at my eyes but not really looking into them. She was inspecting me, rather than trying to communicate. After a minute or two, her hand hovered in front of my face, and she began smacking her mouth open and closed rhythmically. Understanding that she was about to groom me reassured and relaxed me, but her fingers on my face were not really so gentle. She was digging at the corners of my eyes in a way I didn’t enjoy. I turned my face away. When I looked back at her, she perused my face again briefly, and then tried picking my nose with a finger that smelled of feces. I turned away again. I clacked my own mouth and tried to groom her face, but she didn’t like it either. She turned her head to escape my hand as I had done with hers. This wasn’t going perfectly.
Finally, when I lowered my hands to groom her chest, she pushed her shoulders back and straightened her neck to give me good access. I moved both my hands over her chest the way I thought another chimpanzee would—parting the grayish hairs, flicking off dirt particles, gently scratching at blemishes on skin stretched tautly over easily discernable ribs. After about 10 minutes, Nama lowered her head and returned her chest and shoulders to normal posture. When I looked up to see what she wanted to do next—not more face grooming, I hoped—her eyes were seeking mine with a desire to communicate that startled me. While she held my gaze, she took my right hand and placed it purposefully on the chain around her bony neck, rubbed bare of hair by the shackle. Her lower lip hung open, and her eyes were steady, beseeching. She was requesting the freedom she needed most of all and was expecting no less than simple action as an answer from a friend. All I could give her was a promise that she couldn’t understand, although I meant it with all my heart.
“Nama, I will take that chain off of you, just as soon as I am able to. I will never rest a single day until I do.”