Saturday, February 15, 2014

Louisiana's very own KING KONG

Let's go back some four to five decades.   Gulf South Research Institute (GSRI) was in its infancy and our Life Science operation had been established in New Iberia.  Dr. William (Bill) Greer was the Director of our Primate Center there which housed several species of monkeys including Chimpanzees and Great Apes.

Bill was recognized world-wide for his expertise in primate breeding, rearing and general care.  He became attached to many of them and admitted having a hard time when any of his “pets” were transferred to other centers and colonies or were drafted into research projects.

Bill developed a very paternal attachment to a recently newborn great ape that he named “Jimmy G” (the G for Greer).   It should be noted here that primates pound for pound are 5 times stronger than humans.   For instance if a baby chimp or gorilla weighed in at 50 pounds, he would be equal in strength to a 250 pound man.  Great Apes, when fully grown can weigh over 400 pounds (2000 pounds for a human equivalent).  The bars on its cage-enclosure would need to be 2 inches in diameter.

OK, let's get back to Jimmy G.  Several times each week Bill would make his rounds through the primate center.  When Jimmy G’s body weight had gotten up to 30 pounds, Bill would put Jimmy G on a leash and let him tag along.  

Jimmy G was particularly fond of Coca Colas.  Located in one of the center’s corridors was a coke machine that dispensed bottled cokes.   With each tour through the center Jimmy G would stop at the Coke machine and Bill would give him a dime.  Jimmy G would insert the dime in the machine’s coin slot, open the vertical access door, pull out a bottled coke, open it, chug-a-lug it, place the empty bottle in a recycle container, then look up at Bill with an “OK, I’m done” look and they would then complete their tour for that day.

With each weekly tour Jimmy would be weighing an additional 3-5 pounds.   He was destined to grow to 550 pounds (much heavier than the average Great Ape) with an arm-spread of over 10 feet.

Jimmy loved Bill and the feeling was definitely mutual.  The weekly leashed tours continued until Jimmy was up to 175  pounds (the human equivalent of 875 pounds).

Jimmy’s final tour was on the day that the Coke machine jammed.    Per his usual custom Jimmy gingerly inserted the dime in the coin slot, opened the coke machine’s access door, reached in to pull out a bottled coke … but to no avail.  The machine would not release the coke.  Jimmy tried 2 or 3 times, but with no success.  He then looked up at Bill with an “Are you gonna help me?” look on his cute little monkey face.  Bill, thinking that perhaps the dime had not completed its journey through the coin slot mechanism, began to pound on the machine.  After 4 or 5 strikes Bill was suddenly aware that he had pulled a boo boo, a major boo boo.  MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO.  Oh shit!!  That was Jimmy’s cue.  He began beating on the machine himself, caving in the coin slot area.  This tactic was obviously "OK" because he had seen Bill do it.  Of course Bill had not damaged the machine.  Jimmy then tried again to pull a coke from its slot, but again with no success.   Bill knew better than to try to stop him.  Since Jimmy felt permitted to take matters into his own hands, he proceeded to apply his considerable muscle power to  tear open one of the stubborn coke bottle barriers.  He succeeded. The heavy metal slot, now bent outward, permitted Jimmy to retrieve his coke.  Though he could have had more than one (at no additional charge), Jimmy was not greedy.  He chugged down his coke, discarded the empty in the recycle container and was satisfied.  He looked up at Bill with an "OK, I'm done" look.

GSRI was billed $400 by the local Coke distributor.

Jimmy, for obvious reasons, would no longer accompany Bill on his weekly colony tours.  Having no miniature Empire State building to exercise his climbing skills, Jimmy G would have to be content in a cage. 

While NOT a KING KONG, he would grow to 550 pounds (larger than the usual mature ape) and become KING of the New Iberia Primate Colony.  But don’t fret over his fate.  He occupied his time as the colony’s chief breeder.  He kept quite busy and he was quite content.  I wonder why!


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