Boubou the monkey

Posted

1966

Topic: Animals


Here is the memory that I was told about Boubou


In Niamez, two men captured a young green monkey, probably illegally, but in the bush, this was not uncommon and didn’t raise any questions.

They kept the monkey for a few months, then wanted to get rid of it. Either they had to go back to France, or they became tired of it because it was very young, about one year old, and not tamed at all.

The two men gave us their monkey because my mother had, rightly, the reputation of loving animals. We had, at the back of the house hens, turkeys, and poultry – vaguely tolerated by our cat and dog, which would have loved chasing the birds!

The young monkey was very aggressive with everybody. He bit and clawed everyone that came close. He was therefore chained to the huge flamboyant that extended his dappled shadow behind the house. His food was placed at the very end of his chain.

Every time someone approached, he started to shout terrible cries, climbed up the flamboyant as quickly as possible, and furiously shook the branch to scare off the visitor.

My father tried to handle him by force, that made things even worse.

Boubou the monkey

This young monkey was thus trapped in his fears and aggressiveness, and he seemed awfully sad, and this broke my heart! But what could I do? Free him?

Our house laid at the very northern edge of the city. Beyond the manioc hedge that my mother planted, started the immense desert. Nothingness for thousands of kilometers, no food, no water, only deadly dangers for the young monkey.

After school, I would come and see him, try and speak to him, and bring him toys. At first, be angrily shook his branch, but after a while, he climbed down the tree and sat sadly at it’s base, looking at the toys without touching them.

Then, June arrived, and the end of school approached. We had our afternoons free so we could study for the exams. I took the habit of bringing my books in the shade of the flamboyant. It was cooler there than in my room. I also thought that the monkey would feel less lonely, but made sure I sat far enough so he couldn’t attack me.

He saw me arrive, every day, at the same hour, and eventually stopped making fuss about my arrival. After 3 days his mistrust diminished, and he gradually came closer, clearly intrigued by my work.

He ended up coming to the extent of his chain, sitting before me. Then, he lied down, observing each my my movements. Seeing that, I moved my books, and myself, ever so slightly closer to him. He didn’t move, so I slid my hand closer to him.

He jumped back, screaming, climbed up his tree, and kept yelling aloud furiously, as to warn the entire world about how dangerous I was. Well, this hadn’t been a success.

Yet, the next day, I sat at the exact same spot, and placed my hand where it had been the day before. And I waited for him. (I know, I wasn’t very focused on my studies!) After a long time, Boubou came back, close to me, staring at my hand. Half of the afternoon passed, a few hours where he stood close to me, while keeping an eye on my hand. A few hours where I moved my hand, little by little, towards him, trying not to scare him off.

After 3 days of this, he put his own hand very close to mine. I slid my fingers on the sand until I touched his fingers. He didn’t say anything. I waited a long time. Then started to stroke his fingers… he let me touch him. Within an hour, he let me take him in my arms, stroke him and hug him. That was it, I had won. I tamed him. He understood that I wasn’t a danger to him.

As soon as I got back to school, I dashed to the back of the house to be with him. He jumped in my arms, putting his head against my neck, and making these small noises telling me how much he missed me and how the world had been mean to him. Then he jumped on the ground and leaped happily, grabbing his toys, he wanted to play.

I spent a lot of time with him, and studied next to him. I tried to keep him busy while I was in my school books, and one day, I thought of bringing him a mirror. It was as tall as Boubou. He was completely fascinated, and couldn’t stop making noises and hilarious faces. He tried to look behind the mirror where he could find the “other” monkey.
Boubou and his mom

Boubou became my baby. He really behaved as if I was his mother, at least it’s the impression I had. Unfortunately, he kept fearing the other humans. I tried to make him sociable with the others, but he would still scream and bite, even with my young sister. After that, he would come to me, crying, as if dealing with other humans was a terrible ordeal for him.

Despite his instincts of a wild animal, he was extremely brilliant. Boubou showed how much he was curious, he listened, learned really fast, and could solve problems that I gave him: with objects, or trails.

Dare I say he was more intelligent that some humans I encountered in my life!

And, most of all, he had a big heart.

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