National Geographic : 1953 Jul
The Ape with Friends in Washington enjoying chocolate creams. She is yours with out a doubt." "She usually has waffles and syrup for Sun day-morning breakfast," observed Kenneth. "That I'm afraid we can't manage," said Mr. Walker regretfully. "Do let me get into the cage with her," begged Roberta. "You'll have to do it at your own risk," warned an assistant standing by. "Oh, yes, please! It will be all right." Old Friends Enjoy a Good Cry The iron bars were opened and Roberta stepped in. She stood at the far end of the cage, held up her hand, and called in a tone that told of palm trees, flame-of-the-forest, and frangipani blossoms. With a whoop of joy Bimbo threw herself into Roberta's arms, and girl and gibbon hugged each other, crying unrestrainedly. For some time Bimbo refused to be put down, but clung fast and protested in a hurt little voice. She allowed her nose to be rubbed, and the spot between her eyes, and her eyebrows, and she stretched her neck as a cat does in order to be rubbed under the chin. Since an animal ordinarily shies away from anything near the eyes, Mr. Walker was more convinced than ever that Bimbo was with her own family. The morning crowds were beginning to come to the zoo and to flow past the Small Mammal House. The somewhat incongruous sight of a girl in the gibbon cage stopped them in their tracks. Reluctantly Roberta left the cage, giving Bimbo a second chocolate as a parting gift. Roberta Receives a Scolding "We must have pictures of this," declared Mr. Walker. "Can you come back on Wednesday?" We did. The two larger gibbons had again been decoyed away and the cage cleaned. Bimbo watched with interest and offered com ments while Mr. Walker set up his camera. She took the proffered pineapple and choco lates as her due; then, waiting until Roberta stepped into the cage, she greeted her with delight. Finally Bimbo sat down on the floor and turned her back on Roberta, saying "woup, woup, woup," softly and reproachfully. "She's pouting," explained Roberta, "and asking why we stayed away again after finding her." Dr. William M. Mann, for 28 years the director of the zoo, wagged his head as if he had now seen everything.* Roberta soothed Bimbo's ruffled feelings in apologetic tones, whereupon our pet bright- ened up and became her usual cheery self. She was ready to pick up life where she had left it in Chiang Mai, 15 months before. She made prodigious leaps while giving coy glances ask ing for pursuit. She tugged at Roberta's skirt and ran away, then returned to snatch at her hair, roughhousing as she used to do on the big veranda (opposite page). Bimbo would never roughhouse with me, but would sit on my lap to be brushed and to have her head stroked and her feet rubbed. During this process she would stretch out and doze, purring gently like a cat, until with something like a snore she would drop off to sleep. "Get into the cage and see if she remembers you, Dad," suggested Kenneth. "She may not forgive me for walking out on her-and for my teasing." He referred to the times when he would stand near her feeding tray and eat a banana without offering her any. After feigning in dignation at this outrage and using very bad gibbon language, she would then extend a long arm around him for the other banana hidden behind his back. On this occasion Bimbo did remember him and forgave all, and after a big smile and a hug she thumped him on the chest with both feet and darted away to show that they were back on the same old footing. Bimbo Grew Up with Humans Now just over six years old, Bimbo was a baby when we got her, and small enough to fit into a shoe box, long arms and all. She came from the fantastically beautiful Doi Chi ang Dao, the Mountain of the City of the Stars, or, as some say, the Mountain as High as the Stars, which is 42 miles north of Chiang Mai. There, in a lush glen, wild gibbons feed on tropical fruits and drink from a crystal stream flowing from a limestone cave where tiers of golden Buddhas sit in endless medita tion. In the poinciana tree in our back yard we built Bimbo a small house, and in front of it placed horizontally a thick bamboo pole which extended about 20 feet to a post on which was mounted a feeding tray. She was tethered to the pole by a light chain and a sliding ring. She quickly learned to hang from the pole and swing along, hand over hand, with sur prising ease and speed, and, as an alterna tive, to run along the top holding the chain in one hand. From the beginning her outstanding traits were affection and mischief. Her mischief was * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE: "Man's Closest Counterparts," August, 1940, and "Monkey Folk," May, 1938, both by William M. Mann.