The Dark Side
by H.D. Steklis
We’ve come to study baboons by day,
To an isle in a river where the lechwe play.
The question before us is not why baboons ignore us,
For that they most certainly do.
But rather, the one, of when in a troop there’s a coup,
And a newcomer male has seized control,
By baring his teeth forced another to cede,
The much coveted alpha role.
It is then all mothers to their bellies squeeze their infants tight,
And though eyeing with interest the victor’s confident strut,
They run to old friends overcome by fright,
And they huddle and snuggle and call chut, chut, chut.
And good reason to run thus, we suspect, they have,
For the dark side of male baboon nature, as here found,
Too often an infant leaves dead on the ground.
A mere lump of black fur, stained dark red from wounds deep.
All evident signs of a dastardly deed,
Spurred by lust for power and greed,
To plant in the next generation,
The victorious newcomer’s seed.
Willie B.’s Eyes
Luminous, bold, your soul behold.
Gentle, yet strong,
if they could but speak in your tongue.
They would tell of a time, not so long ago.
When gorilla and man were neither friend nor foe.
Both content to sip from nature’s same bounteous coup.
A not so distant reflection of a common stock.
And they would speak of a sadness that befell their kind.
When nature’s trust was betrayed and rivers ran red.
A kinship was broken, turned to bondage instead.
But gaze deeper within those sentient,
are they tear-filled eyes?
And turn not away, lest yourself you recognize.
Dr. H. Dieter Steklis holds the rank of Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University, the State University of New Jersey, where he served as a faculty member from 1974 until 2004, and as chairman of the Department of Anthropology from 1983-1991. Currently, he serves as Vice-President and Chief Scientist for The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI), a non-profit organization dedicated to the study and protection of mountain gorillas in Central-East Africa. He joined the fund in 1991, serving as Director of the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda until 1993, and subsequently as the Fund’s Executive Director (1993-1995) before assuming his role as Vice-President and Chief Scientist. Dr. Steklis and his family reside outside Tucson, AZ, and, in 1997, he was appointed as a "Visiting Scholar" on a continuing basis in the Department of Anthropology, at the University of Arizona.
Dr. Steklis received his Ph.D. in 1974 from the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied primatology. He has spent over 30 years engaged in laboratory and field research on the behavioral biology of monkeys and great apes, including studies of the behavioral ecology of free-ranging chimpanzees in eastern Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo).
Dr. Steklis has authored or edited over 75 scientific publications, including five books. He served as the editor of the scientific journal, American Journal of Primatology, and is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Behavioral and Brain Sciences.
Since 1991, his research has focused on mountain gorilla behavioral ecology and conservation in the Virunga volcanoes region of Central — East Africa. Along with his wife and fellow primatologist (Netzin Gerald Steklis), his aim has been to better understand the connections between behavior, life history, ecology and conservation of the mountain gorilla. Their work has been featured in national and international magazines, on numerous television broadcasts (including National Geographic) and radio programs, and they lecture frequently to varied audiences across the country.
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