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Just Thought I’d Mention
Saturday, 08.13.2011, 07:04pm (GMT-5)

By CG Hernon Keep an eye on Cheeta. With the recent release of ‘Rise of the Plant of the Apes’ this is a good time to consider chimpanzees…before they consider taking over. My first exposure to chimps was via the black and white Jungle Man movies. Cheeta, the comedic sidekick of Tarzan, played wingman, messenger and occasional rescue coordinator when the Ape Man got himself into trouble. I, like most kids, thought a chimpanzee would be the ideal pal, half dog half brother. It wasn’t to be; I never found one in the classifieds. Genetically, we’re more similar to chimpanzees than any other animal, sharing 96% of our DNA. And chimps are genetically more similar to humans than they are to gorillas. Still, scientists have identified 40 million differences among the three billion DNA nucleotides in each species’ genome leaving them close but no banana. Behaviorally, chimps also have a lot in common with us. They’re very social, using facial expression, vocalizations and body language to communicate. They also have a similar paternal relationship, nursing their babies and sharing their nest until they reach adolescence and then remaining in a relationship with them afterward. They form lifelong friendships with unrelated individuals and laugh and joke around with one another. They behave significantly different than most animals but amazingly similar to us. As far as pets go, chimps have a few traits that could make them handy. They’re amazing athletes, three to five times stronger than human’s, able to outrun even the fastest human sprinters and climb, jump and tumble like…a monkey. They also have the Mac- Gyver-esque ability to make and use tools from what’s available. They’re even capable of communicating with sign language; a chimp named Washoe knows more than 240 signs. Besides all that, they look adorable in a top hat and cane. So far, so good, but, as with humans, puberty can wreak havoc on a perfectly good individual. At about 5-years of age, chimps reach adolescence. Suddenly (again, as with humans) that sweet, cute, cuddly little monkey wants to run things. Were it to come to blows, chimps could easily use their physical prowess to beat their human to a pulp. A couple of years ago a chimp named Travis, who’d been adopted by a human family at three days of age and raised almost like their child, headed out of the house with the owner’s car keys (he’d been taught to drive…). While trying to corral Travis, the monkey attacked and severely maimed a neighbor. Unable to control his rampage the police had to shoot and kill him. In 2005 a couple who’d lost their monkey to a shelter after it bit off a woman’s finger were visiting the chimp for its birthday when two other chimpanzees broke out of their cages and attacked the man. The results were awful, the man was left severely disfigured and the monkeys, who wouldn’t stop, were shot. Don’t let their sailor suits fool you; those fuzzy little hooligans can get a taste for blood. They are wild animals and like any wild animal they don’t naturally adhere to our rules. And as handy as a short, fuzzy, physically megatalented buddy might be, I think I’ll stick with Rosie the Bulldog. She’s gassy, lazy and can barely climb stairs but I’m confident she won’t try to bite my face off. I remember the young, virile Tarzan swinging through the trees when I was a kid but I haven’t seen hide nor hair of the jungle man in his older years. He may have married Jane and moved to Mayfair in London but just to be safe we’d better keep an eye on Cheeta, just thought I’d mention that.