Too much of a good thing

Christian Notlevsen, senior deputy judge of Copenhagen, Denmark, recently read the will of an 83 year old woman to her beneficiaries. Jimmy, Trunte, Fifi, Trine, Grinni and Gigi inherited $60,000 when the lady died, and Notlevsen said that they behaved better than many of the people he had seen in court. This is significant, since the will was read in front of the chimpanzee cage at the Copenhagen Zoo. Jimmy, Trunte, Fifi, Trine, Grinni and Gigi are chimpanzees. The woman had no living relatives, so she left her money to the chimps. According to a zoo spokesman, the money will be used to improve the zoo facilities in the chimpanzee area. Right. And I’m George W. Bush. But lest you think this is some kind of strange, foreign affair, and that Americans would never do such a thing, you might want to check into the Great Ape Legal Project, which I learned about on MSNBC News of the Weird. The Seattle attorney in charge of the project intends to prove, within the next ten years, that chimpanzees should have some of the same legal rights as human beings, and should not be treated as mere property. Chimps, according to the lawyer, should be treated as people, with rights to life, liberty, and maybe even the pursuit of happiness. A spokesman for the GALP said that chimps should even be allowed to sue their guardians, but that “animals” such as cockroaches and ants “will never be eligible for any kind of rights.” I personally think they’re being a little narrow minded here. If we are going to grant citizenship rights to chimps, why withhold them from roaches and ants’ Most states, after all, treat lawyers as people, and most folks have less against bugs than attorneys. (Note to lawyers: I’m just kidding, especially if you are planning to sue me.) Chimps, however, are not the only non-humans receiving special treatment lately. I have here an article from the August 2 edition of the Austin American Statesman, written by John Kelso, describing a proposal in Austin’s 2000-2001 city budget to spend $154,000 on a breeding facility for the Barton Springs salamander. The lizard is on the endangered species list, so, obviously, we can’t do without it. Although few of us have benefitted directly, or indirectly, from this creature’s existence, and probably wouldn’t recognize one if we saw it, it would be a terrible thing for it to become extinct. Wouldn’t it’ The planned lizard lounge will be 800 to 1000 square feet, and will include tanks, electricity, piping, lab equipment, and air conditioning. That’s right, air conditioning. The article did not state whether the salamanders would be allowed access to the thermostat. It did say that the amphibians would be observed around the clock, which would seem to be a detriment to the stated purpose of the facility, but what do I know’ Kruger National Park in South Africa, on the other hand, has a much bigger problem: elephants. But before you envision a Texas Stadium-sized elephant breeding facility on the African plain, let me point out that the elephant problem is just the opposite of the Barton Springs salamander’s. There are too many of them. Hunters with deep pockets would be happy to buy permits to help solve the elephant overpopulation problem, but I guess that would be too easy. So the good folks at the University of Georgia at Athens have come up with another solution. They’ve developed a pig-derived contraceptive vaccine to keep the pachyderms from conceiving. Just off the top of my head, I would say that the immunocon-traceptive vaccination program for these elephants will cost the African National Park Service about twice the amount that allowing hunters to shoot the beasts would bring in. But, hey, it’s only money that could be spent on improvements to the local quality of life, and I’ll bet the folks over there don’t want indoor plumbing, anyway. Animal overpopulation seems to be a recurring problem lately. The folks in Ostend, Belgium, are being overrun with pigeons and ducks. And they intend to get rid of them in much the same way the Africans are solving their elephant problem: through sterilization. The difference is that the Belgians have some experience in this area, since they recently used this method to cut their cat population down to size. The pigeons will be fed grain mixed with contraceptives, but it seems that the ducks are more resistant to such subterfuge. To keep the ducks in check, their eggs will be shaken during incubation, which will kill the embryos inside. I guess people will have to be hired to poke around looking for duck nests, in order to find the eggs and shake them. I wonder how “Belgian duck egg shaker” would look on my resume. Personally, I think shaking the duck eggs is a stupid idea. I think they should initiate a summer festival similar to the one held in Claysville, Pennsylvania. The folks there hold a “chicken-flying contest”, in which chickens are placed in mailboxes, and then the doors of the mailboxes are opened suddenly with toilet plungers. This causes the chickens to fly hundreds of feet, and the owner of the chicken who goes the farthest wins a prize. The Belgians could substitute ducks for the chickens, and even though the contest is universally non-fatal, I’m sure the ducks would decide to move to a less stressful environment. Victoria, British Columbia, Canada has its own animal population problem. It’s being invaded by large numbers of Rana Catesbeiana, otherwise known as the American Bullfrog. No plan for controlling the frogs has yet been adopted, since the extent of the infestation has not been determined, according to University of Victoria biologist Purnima Govindarajulu, whose name I did not make up. In order to get a handle on the frog problem, Purni is looking for volunteers to help him find and count the frogs by listening for their mating call. I can’t help the Canadians get rid of the frogs, but I know why they’ve moved out of the U.S. If Budweiser were making stupid commercials about me, I’d leave, too. There has been nothing in the news recently about an overpopulation of parrots anywhere, but a Greek parrot did receive a parking ticket a couple of months ago. A policeman determined that Coco, a resident of an Athens pet shop, was blocking traffic by sitting on his perch outside the shop, where his owner stationed him every morning, and deserved a citation. The cop gave the ticket to the owner, who handed it to Coco, who tore it up. Of course, you don’t just ignore a ticket that way. Coco is obviously going to have to defend himself in court, and he’ll need a good lawyer. I wonder if the attorney in charge of the Great Ape Legal Project speaks Greek’ Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist who plans to take his son hunting during the special Youth Only Hunting Season October 28-29. Write to him at PO Box 564, Mason, Tx 76856 or email hemphill@towa.org

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