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Saturday, September 8, 2007

Gorilla drawing for sale

I started out in conservation being angry at the local people. I was young, 22, and I saw orphan chimps being brought to a sanctuary in terrible condition and all I could think about were the people who shot their parents and wanted to condemn them to a life they didn't deserve.

I've come to realise the situation is more complicated. An artist called Charles Alexander sent me a photo he took that illustrated the point with haunting beauty.

The boy in the photo was selling the drawing for money. Of course, Charles being a huge softie, wanted to buy all the drawings like this he saw, but his guide told him kids like this were being kept out of school to make money off the tourists and buying the drawing would be 'stealing the future' of the children.

I don't think, seeing a child in this state, you could ever blame a local community for killing apes. I spoke to the cook at Lola, Papa Jean, about killing elephants in Congo in his youth and he said 'You don't have soap. You don't have sugar. Of course you kill the elephant.'

Since then, it's become clear that Congo has been punished for being so rich in natural resources. Every wealthy country in the world has an interest in keeping Congo poor. So when I'm looking for someone to blame for the orphan bonobos that come into Lola, I find it hard keeping my finger from myself.

And people like this I find on the internet:

'We can assume that in many cases the Lord created animals that would be a delight to man, and created man to be a blessing to the animals. Even today, both children and adults enjoy seeing gorillas and chimpanzees in zoos. It is reasonable to assume that these creatures were partly made for just this reason, to be a joy and entertainment to us.'