Part III, Tenuous Adulthood

Chapter 15, The Baboons: The Unstable Years

After Saul lost his rank as alpha, all hell broke loose for months as ranks flipped on the daily. Benjamin held the alpha position for a short time, and thank God, because he was cowardly, hiding behind Devorah when another male threatened him. While it was a chaotic hell for the males, the females finally had a choice as to who they mated with. Go girl power! Two females joined the group, which is atypical as males normally transfer, not females. Slashes crossed the face of one female in estrus. She was harassed and left shorty after she arrived, but the other stayed, indicating the atrocities of whatever she was running from.

Chapter 16, Ol’ Curly Toes and the King of Nubian-Judea

By this time, Robert has discovered low-ranking males had the highest level of stress hormone all the time,

“indicating that everyday life was miserable enough to activate a stress response.”

These baboons hypersecrete good cholesterol but maintain lower levels due to changes in the brain and pituitary and adrenal glands. Additionally, highest ranking males do not have highest levels of cholesterol. Instead, subadult males do.

At this point, Sapolsky has his Ph.D., and his friends Soirowa and Rhoda question him about marriage and starting a family. Rob spends a great deal of time listening to village gossip and sharing spooky stories.

Chapter 17, The Penguins of Guyana

Sapolsky had to leave a riveting fight between Daniel, the temporary alpha, and Nathanial to retrieve his weekly supply from the lorry at the lodge. His tire was punctured for the third time that week. He goes through the shenanigans of repairing it and goes to another tourist lodge  to indulge and feel American for a minute. Sapolsky discusses the mixing of cultures in Kenya expressing,

“It constantly amazes me that there isn’t more overt hostility between the different cultures and tribes and races here that rub elbows all the time.”

However, he proceeds to give stories of elaborate scams in which hostility between groups surfaces.

After Rob gives a Masai villager a ride with a baboon in his Jeep, word quickly spreads that he and Richard herd them like sheep… which leads to the most elite prank of all time. He and Richard poured baboon blood in a cup and drank out of another, switching the cups out of sight of village children. This prank bit Rob in the ass after scammers pretended to charge him and report him to the police.

Chapter 18, When Baboons Were Falling Out of the Trees

This chapter outlines an elaborate scam created by the warden who takes Rob and Muchemi, a veterinarian, to a lodge dump to find sick baboons. The manager blew up at him, saying the animals looked sick. One baboon was thin, with an arched back – signs of TB… with Rob’s permission, the manager of the lodge tried to shoot the baboon and missed till they scattered. Rob, Muchemi, and Richard regrouped in the car, and Richard finally expressed their collective thought,

“”I think it was just a story he was saying about the baboons being sick. I think that man just likes to shoot baboons and wanted the warden to let him.”

Chapter 19, The Old White Man

An old white man used a voice amplifier to accommodate the surgical removal of either his trachea or larynx and had a hole in his throat. Everyone at the tourist camp pondered how his body functions, beginning with drinking.

“‘You cannot get the machine wet, like a radio. It will make sparks and rust.’ Everyone agreed and sympathized.”

They deduce he fuels himself with the two camera batteries he had purchased… which escalates to an explanation of why white women always take pictures: to make a machine that looks like their husbands after they die. Fear spread regarding the machine until he gave a hundred shilling tip and everyone assented,

“This old white man is a good machine.”

Chapter 20, The Elevator

Richard and Rob go to Nairobi, Richard’s first time in the big city. His trip to a bookstore resonates closely with a kid in a candy store. Richard rides the elevator to the fifth floor of their hotel, hyperventilating. He rode multiple times but later confesses he had ventured to Nairobi once before on a mission to change his child’s name, which was Hillary instead of Jesse, as he wanted. He entered an elevator and describes his experience like this,

Then, he took me into a small room with no windows… The door was closed, and suddenly it was roaring and my stomach was hurting so much I thought I was dying from Nairobi already.”

Chapter 21, The Mound Behind 7-Eleven

Sapolsky foreshadows the death of one of his baboons in this chapter by describing his attempted CPR, endotrachial tube, and burial of the baboon.

He transitions to a discussion of Dian Fossey, a legend who studied gorillas intensely but loathed the academic world. Dian worked in Rwanda, and Batwa tribesman used snares to catch forest bucks, which inevitably entrapped some of her dear gorillas, dying of gangrene in the trap. Fossey waged war on the tribesmen, destroying snares – their source of food. Soon, tribesmen intentionally killed her gorillas and lay them on the path to her cabin. She became a temporary extrovert to earn funds to “fight for her precious gorillas” and returned to Rwanda fighting with everyone till she was murdered one night. An American grad student who left Rwanda served as an effective scapegoat.

Rob visits the site of Fossey’s work and is devastated by the weight of what’s been lost and seized from the wondrous gorillas. He summits a mountain and runs down in fear of being murdered by a kid with a machete lying in the tent next to him. On his way down, he encounters Fossey’s cabin, grave, and grave of the gorillas.