The next day we tourists settled down to watch the Mating Day activities. Several low tables were set out under wide umbrellas to keep off the frequent rain; we sat on the dry earth beneath, and ate fruit, barbecued meat, and spliced meat-fruit salad. All around us we could see the neobonobos spiralling through the trees, chasing each other like a game of tag.
Some trees in this rainforest stretched as far as the green photosynthetic worldhouse roof, five kilometres above; there were many layers of canopy beneath the veined sky, and most of them were covered in chimps.
It was difficult to see what was going on, to be honest. Using the highest magnification my eyes were capable of I could watch one particular individual, as he chased another neobonobo; they embraced for a few seconds, fell in slow motion tumbling comically, was chased himself, embraced again by a different partner. The whole ceremony seemed very different to any kind of human sexual behaviour, and I was getting a little bored watching it.
At the next table squatted a Greater NeoChimp diplomat, an ape from the nearby world of Digit. I already knew his name, which was Respected Hoogh-Ahh-Lehh. He was dressed in a crisp white suit and a pale grey hat; he watched the chase with a tiny golden telescope on the end of his walking stick. Lowering his stick, he grimaced - I recognised his facial expression as unhappy/disgusted, although confusingly it looked like a human smile.
"I do not care to see such vulgarities," he said, leaning across the tables towards me.
That must be why you have the telescope, I thought, but said nothing, attempting a cross-species friendly face.
He continued, "This nonsense cannot be interesting to you humans. Why do you not come to our own world, and I will show you real civilised chimpanzee behaviour."
Somehow I doubted that the chimps of Digit could be any more gracious than the good-humoured peoples of Bolobo; but it has always been difficult for any nonchimp to gain entry to any Greater Neochimp world, so I replied, "If that is an invitation -"
"It is!" Respected Hoogh-Ahh-Lehh interposed.
"Then I am grateful, and I accept." It is a good idea to network whenever an opportunity arises, naturally, even though I had my reservations about the Greater Neochimps. The experience should be an edification, if nothing else.
by Steve Bowers (2008)
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