Wednesday, January 11, 2006


As one Tanzanian interviewee ruefully observed, several of the Gombe chimps are more internationally famous than any individual African President (and surely also more than a match for most of them in terms of poltical shiftiness).

Yes, it's Chimp Week this week on BBC1, which means a chance to catch up with all the amusing antics of those celebrity simians, whilst at the same time being sternly reminded that wild apes may vanish from the tropical forests in little more than a decade.

Unfortunately, the footage has been all but ruined for adult viewers by a Play School-style narration. You might think that if ever a bit of anthropomorphising was justified it is with our "nearest animal relatives" (with apologies to that deranged red state pastor that Richard Dawkins encountered the other night), but I'm not sure of the wisdom of pitching a prime time nature programme at the sort of little people that are already likely to harbour the suspicion that rabbits and even teletubbies are capable of complex cognition.

"What must he be thinking?", the narrator keeps asking of the domestically violent Frodo. And when her twin daughters get lost in the park, he observes of their mother Gremlin that "she must be going through what any mum goes through when her kids don't come home". Except of course that chimps don't appear to have a a very deep understanding of the concept of death.