Lucy the Chimpanzee

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A fascinating episode of Radiolab this week, focusing on the strange and sad story of Lucy the chimpanzee, who was brought up by psychotherapist Maurice Temerlin (shown above) in an experimental attempt to see how human she could become. Some of the moments where the human/animal boundary gets very fuzzy in this programme will make your hair stand on end – particularly the bits dealing with Lucy’s, er, interest in pictures of naked human males.
Listen to the end to get an update from the Great Ape Trust, where the attempts to teach the apes language seem to have taken a surprising turn: a researcher insists that one of the bonobos has started actually speaking in gruff English. Although his colleague sounds a little less convinced. One thing is certain: if a bonobo threatens to bite you if you don’t do what he says, you’d better listen.

3 thoughts on “Lucy the Chimpanzee

  1. emily

    (long time lurker, first time commenter…)
    I heard this programme through the This American Life podcast and sat riveted throughout the whole thing. So fascinating. So disturbing. Although I do love the idea that Lucy would casually fix herself the occasional gin and tonic!

  2. Emma

    I know, what with reading Playgirl and drinking G and Ts she had a pretty racy 70s lifestyle going on

  3. tbud

    I just heard this radio lab episode and was fascinated but at the same time shocked. I was shocked because the poor lucy is treated like an object. She is brought up like a human child and then when they can no longer keep her they send her away to the “wild” where she’s forced to fit in. It’s true that these wild animals are meant to be in the wild(natural habitat) but an animal that is raised in captivity is no longer a wild animal. Lucy didn’t know the habitat. All she knew was to live with these people, eating and talking in sign language and seeing only humans. It’s like if someone adopts a baby from a different country and raises it as an american and then when she is to big, send her away to her original country on her own. I know that’s a bad comparison but still…I find it very insensitive of animal owners to take in a pet and then dump it when it’s too inconvenient. It’s cruel.

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