Monday, February 22, 2010

One of the saddest stories ever told . . .

This story hit me like an emotional ton of bricks this weekend when I heard it on This American Life (it was a revisit of a story already aired on the radio show we plug most often on this blog: Radio Lab). The blurb on the website makes the story sound only mildly interesting:

"Chimps. Bonobos. Humans. We’re all great apes. This hour we take a look at what happens when we all try to live together. Our main story is about a chimp named Lucy."

But that quick summary completely misses the powerful emotional impact of the story: The bulk of it is focuses on one researcher's attempt to treat Lucy humanely (semi-pun intended) AFTER the research is over. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh and others "raised" Lucy as human, and they may have been far too successful. What happens after you are "done" with the 20-30 year old chimpanzee you used in your research? The story documents the noble and corageous efforts of Janis Carter to care for Lucy, going to extraordinary lengths to help Lucy have some sort of life after the research. Warning: keep some kleenex handy for the ending.

(Teaching thought: This story could get students fired up about the ethics of animal experimentation)

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