The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on December 5, 1976 · Page 36
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 36

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Sunday, December 5, 1976
Page 36
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Page 36 article text (OCR)

C t I C2-Palm Beach Post-Times, Sunday, December 5, 1976 Chimps From CI" supposed to be wild animals. They don't look too dangerous to me." When she cheerfully replied, "Would you like to come over here and see how wild they are for yourself?" the motorist paused momentarily to consider the Invitation then drove off. of monkey chow-loving hippos, she takes it all in stride and makes it look easy. Perhaps too easy. Several weeks ago, a passing spectator spotted Ms. Marchant walking among the apes and stopped to shout, "Hey, I thought these are Exquisite Imported Tiles in one of the most beautiful showrooms in Florida. Also featuring hand-painted Mexican tiles and Terra Cotta pavers, bathroom fixtures and accessories bv Sherle Wagner, natural marble and onyx and Corian by RuPont. Visit Our Showroom Daily 8:30-5:00 Sat. 9-12 of stones or a bucket of water usually sends the curious onlookers on their way. To date, no serious confrontations have taken place. During these observation periods, the chimpanzees are watched very carefully as they groom each other. "Picking small particles of dirt from the fur requires extremely fine motor coordination, thus it's a particularly good indicator of handedness," she says. Other areas watched closely include reaching for things and picking up objects from the ground. These observations are compared to the results of the standardized tests each chimp is given in the large wire cage that stands at the center of the island. The walls have several arm ports through which the animals reach for food rewards, Inside the cage a problem box with a latch-secured cover contains the reward. Opening it requires considerable thought and manual dexterity. "Eventually, you'll see a chimp show a decided preference for one hand or the other," Ms. Marchant says. "That's handedness." Watching the chimpanzees frolic about their island, the casual observer could easily mistake them for a group of small gorillas. Acknowledging this fact, Ms. Marchant points out: "The greatest misconception most people have about chimpanzees one incident when Larry (the dominant male of the colony) was quietly sitting by himself, contemplating whatever chimps contemplate. Doll sneaked up behind and hit him with a dirt clod knowing full well he'd be mad. A wild chase ensued, but it was all in fun. Such events have convinced Ms. Marchant that "chimpanzees are much more intelligent than their daily routines would suggest." Queried about the holster strapped on her hip, she explains, "It's only a BB gun, but it's a good deterrent. Mostly it's for my own peace of mind. The troublemakers know I have it and that's usually enough." Ms. Marchant has been bitten twice by Doll. Both times the chimp ran up from behind to attack. Although the skin was unbroken, the strength of the ape's jaws was enough to rupture numerous blood vessels and cause a large black bruise which lasted for weeks. "Ever since those incidents, Doll hasn't been quite as afraid of me as she used to be," she added. "It's as if she knows the intruder who visits the island isn't as tough as she looks." But, like the occasional intrusion is their size. The only ones they ever see performing are the relatively young ones. As they grow to adult size (which can be in excess of 150 pounds), they start looking more like the Great Apes they are than the cuddly little characters people are used to seeing." The two largest members of this colony are 12-year-old Alvin and 13-year-old Larry. Both stand more than four feet tall and possess three to five times the strength of an average man. As she talked, Ms. Marchant was distracted by Nolan, a relatively immature 6-year-old. The chimp was twirling around and rolling on the ground with an unmistakable "smile" on his face. "That's his I'm-so-precious routine," she explained as she stopped to egg him on. "He's irresistible and he knows it." Each of the chimps has traits that are as readily identifiable as in humans, even to the untrained eye. Once you get to know them, each has a slightly different shade of fur or a small facial characteristic which sets it apart from the other six. Doll, a 9-year-old female, is apparently the cut-up of the colony. Ms. Marchant laughingly recalled Decorative Dimensions, Inc. 926 26th St., West Palm Beach, Fla. Phone 833-38881 HP TO fl IO)lCiy)OT ARTIST SUPPLIES 0p,fe?' Closed Sun. ft Mon. GRUMBACHER PERMANENT PIGMENTS LIQUITEX HYPLAR SIMMONS BRUSHES FREDRIX CANVAS I FRAMES i CUSTOM FRAMING -ORIGINAL OILn 25 DISCOUNT PAINTINGS SAVE UP TO 50 dN DISCONTINUED MOULDINGS METAL SECTIONALS -PRINT OR CANVAS DAX LIKE SEE THROUGH PLASTIC MOD FRAMES -FRAMES FROM 3" x 4" TO 30" x 40". FROM DISTRIBUTOR TO YOU. House pE aUl&d 1510 LAKE AVENUE PHONE 585-0705 LAKE WORTH SEE MAP ON PAGE 517 YELLOW PAGES ers in the sense they can take something out of its natural context in the environment and adapt it for something else. "An example would be taking a slender stick or blade of grass and wetting it with saliva to make it sticky, then inserting it into a termite or ant hill instant ant popsi-cle." A second area which has been a constant source of controversy has been whether human beings are the only animals with language. Ms. Marchant rebukes this theory with the observation, "Perhaps chimpanzees have no need for language as we know it, except to communicate in a human world. "There is a great difference between language and communication, and chimps very definitely DO communicate," she added. "Their communication is a complex system of subtle body language and guttural articulations." Proving these theories is much more difficult than it sounds. To begin with, research is carried out rain or shine, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., six days a week. Although much of the time is occupied by testing, Ms. Marchant and co-worker Amy Samuels spend hundreds of hours sitting in lawn chairs and observing the animals at play. Ms. Samuels, who'll be leaving soon to continue her education at the University of California in Davis, worked for five years as the principal animal trainer for David I'remack, a noted research specialist in chimpanzee communication. Ms. Marchant terms her unplanned teaming with Ms. Samuels as "a true bit of serendipity. Amy was already working with the chimps when I arrived in July, and her experience has been invaluable." As thoy drive to work each morning, they scarcely draw more than an indifferent glance from the herds of animals that roam free throughout the park. In sharp contrast, their arrival at the chimpanzees' island community is always heralded by a shrill cacophony of "food barks" as the seven-member family ooo-oos and aaah-aaahs their recognition of the small, green station wagon. Noting the absence of fences, Ms. Marchant said: "Chimpanzees can't swim a stroke, and most are deathly afraid of the water. Their muscle-, to-weight ratio is so high they sink like rocks." Several of the island's inhabitants will venture out knee-deep in the algae-green waters to meet their breakfast halfway, but most are content to sit along the banks of the moat which surrounds their quarter-acre tract and wait for Linda and Amy to deliver the goodies. As she went about transporting buckets of monkey chow and citrus fruit across the narrow canal in a small boat, Ms. Marchant said the chimps are all former laboratory animals which were slated originally to become a National Science Foundation breeding colony in Mexico (wo years ago. When politics intervened, the project's organizers, Tony and Linda Pfeiffer, accepted an offer to house the animals at Lion Country Safari. "When post-doctoral money ran out, the only way I could keep the program going was to accept a full-time position here at Lion Country. It's not a perfect situation, but with the current problems in Africa, this is the closest thing to a free-ranging environment scientists can find,' said Pfeiffer, the animal park's director of education. The numerous requests he receives each day from various study groups asking for access to the animals bear him out. With his time almost totally occupied by lecturing, Pfeiffer was instrumental in arranging for Ms. Marchant's pre-doctoral fellowship grant by the National Institute of Mental Health. She originally had planned to work with Pfeiffer and his wife in Mexico, and his invitation to work with the animals in Florida was accepted eagerly. "It would be better if the island was a little bigger, but this is really a great environment for extended observation," Ms. Marchant said. "You can only learn so much from books; it's much different to actually work with the animals in the wild." Hecuuse of its open-air setting, occasionally a rhinoceros or giraffe will wander over to see what's going on while the women are at work. The best defense in this case is remaining alert enough to know when they're getting too close, Ms. Marchant explained. Throwing a couple jn:,iji:nr If vftTr1.'! MV CIPT3Jil Mi' tr? of a new season the JJs) l WE GUARANTEE U LOWiST PRICtS ANYWHERE!!! 1 88 YD. The cluster style, the floral design or perhaps a fancy dinner ring. We have all the styles to choose from at prices that are very inviting. Illustrations slightly enlarged POLYESTER ... 60" WIDE ... 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