Some years back Mrs. Animal and I were fortunate enough to befriend a professional orangutan trainer. Bobby Berosini and his apes had a show on the Las Vegas Strip for many years, and it was one of Bobby’s apes that was featured in the Clint Eastwood classics Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can.
What was fascinating about visiting Bobby and his wife in their home, as we were also fortunate enough to do, was that they considered their family as including the orangutans – and they would generally bring one of the apes in for a visit. Bobby’s orangs had their own house on their large lot, and an enormous fenced enclosure encompassing a couple of large trees – plenty of room for active, intelligent animals to play and interact.
When we visited the Berosini family, we got to meet one of the girls – Katie, who was at the time eight years old, which as Bobby explained was roughly the equivalent of a sixteen-year old human girl. Katie was friendly, curious, a little shy. She sat on the couch with us for quite a while, and held Mrs. Animal’s hand the entire time. When it was time for her to go, she motioned to a large bowl of bananas on a stand, then pointed at her open mouth with one long finger, looking expectantly at Bobby – who laughed and gave her some fruit to take with her.
What struck us about Katie was how humanlike some of her actions and gestures were – and how when you looked in her eyes, what you saw maybe wasn’t human, but it wasn’t quite just an animal, either.
Which brings me to some of our closest cousins, closer even than the orangutans. Excerpt:
From turning taps on and off for a drink to cuddling their babies, the great apes are the closest thing to observing a human in a zoo – even suffering hair loss.
Take a look at the photos. Some of our distant, distant ancestors may have looked a lot like this. Fascinating stuff.