On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I eat lunch in the snack bar on campus so that I can hang out with colleagues and students in a relaxed setting. When I sat down today at my usual table, Scientist Guy and his newest grad student, WorksWithPrimates, were talking about the drill, one of Africa's most endangered primates. WorksWithPrimates was describing some of the field work he had done with various primates. "Chimpanzees are so intelligent," he said. "It's just incredible."
Then he was telling me about how he used to work with rehabilitated chimps and mandrills that were going to be released back to the wild. I was remembering Jane Goodall's stories about how social the animals were. The grooming rituals that chimps do seem to me not much different than the grooming rituals the women in my family will do up at camp, brushing each other's hair and such as we sit in the sun.
"Well, it feels good," said WorksWithPrimates, in complete seriousness. He described how he'd just sit still while a chimp or mandrill ran fingers over his short-cropped hair. "Really, there's nothing more relaxing than having a monkey pick bugs out of your hair."