“Man, a spoiled monkey” (E. Rostand)

Dossier ~ Monday 27th February 2017

In forests and jungles, gibbons, gorillas and chimpanzees roam in safety. Jumping from tree to tree, they journey through pastures of wood and branches. It all seems too good to be true... and it is. Because the surface area of forests around the world is diminishing in front of our eyes and our primate cousins have less and less living space.

Chimpanzé / © Hergé - Moulinsart 2017

Unprecedented breakdown

All kinds of human activities threaten the equilibrium of nature and the habitat of apes – just more “fake news” from ecologists, you may say, but the facts speak for themselves: according to a study undertaken by 31 primatologists from all over the world and published in Science Adventures, 60% of species are in danger of extinction in between 25 and 50 years, and 75% of species are already in decline. “Myriad factors are coming together to make an ecological crisis. Everything is linked when considering primates. The primary cause is the loss and degradation of habitat, which leads to other causes such as the contamination of monkeys with human pathogens...” explains primatologist Audrey Maille.

Source - Wikipedia

“Far from being a fringe problem, the disappearance of primates from the surface of the Earth will have serious consequences for human beings,” says primatologist Shelly Mas. “We call monkeys gardeners of the forest. It is thanks to them that forests regenerate. And tropical forests are the Earth's lungs.” Beyond the survival of the apes, we are now talking about the survival of humankind.

Man is already his own predator, but not content to fight and kill himself, he is now decimating the population of his cousins the primates (with whom he shares the majority of his DNA).

In a few years' time it will make no sense for parents to say to their children: “Stop being little monkeys.” Gorillas, baboons and chimps will no longer exist; we will only be able to read about them in books.

Not only monkeys...

After tigers, elephants and giraffes, it is now the turn of monkeys to be put on the list for extinction.

Source - Wikipedia
Source - Wikipedia
Source - Pixnio

A new study published in Nature Climate hits the nail on the head. According to researchers, more than 700 mammals and birds are on the point of extinction, but why? Climate change and too much aggressive human activity such as excessive agriculture, deforestation and road-building, are to blame. What is hurting the ape species also hurts other animals.

Some hope!

"Several species of lemurs, monkeys and apes – such as the ring-tailed lemur, Udzunga red colobus monkey, Yunnan snub-nosed monkey, white-headed langur and Grauer's gorilla – are down to a population of a few thousand individuals. In the case of the Hainan gibbon, a species of ape in China, there are fewer than 30 animals left,” explains the Illinois Professor of Anthropology Paul Garber, who co-wrote the study.

Source - Wikipedia

But there is still hope. We need to reduce our footprint on the environment by creating protected zones, by reforestation, by developing eco-tourism and by other means, as a way to preserve fragile ecosystems. “We need to build local economies founded on the preservation of trees and on the development of eco-tourism around primates. We need to educate decision-makers and young people with conservation programmes,” says Paul Garber.

The future is not so bleak. There are ways in which we can save these species, which we have brought so close to the brink.

Chimpanzé / © Hergé - Moulinsart 2017
Chimpanzé / © Hergé - Moulinsart 2017

“Man, a spoiled monkey” (E. Rostand)

One of the most controversial sequences that Hergé ever imagined is where Tintin shoots a chimpanzee, skins it and then disguises himself in the skin to climb a tree, in a bid to save Snowy. The fox-terrier has just been abducted by another chimp from the same family and apparently, he has never seen a dog in his life. Tintin's ruse works – he is able to get close to the dognapper in his tree, without rousing suspicion. The reporter even opens dialogue with the chimp! The conversation is carried out in perfect French and it is successful, as Tintin exchanges for Snowy the colonial hat that he is still wearing, on top of the chimp-skin. Not only does Tintin climb a tree, but he climbs back up the family tree of his species and in so doing, meets metaphorically and literally his animal ancestors. With this stroke of genius, Tintin manages to negotiate and strike a deal favourable for both parties... even if it all ends in fisticuffs later.

© Hergé - Moulinsart 2017 Tintin in the Congo, a unique comic-strip scene.

While it is true that the scene appears cruel (although Hergé does not include any blood) it also attests to the author's metaphorical intentions: the skin-wearing hero wears his ancestry on his sleeve. At a time when religion and creationism is making a comeback, it is good to have a reminder of a different view.

Thank you Hergé!

The evolution of mankind from monkeys

Man's place among the primates

Source - Theglobserver l'homme qui avait 340.000 ans
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