Thursday, August 12

The Odd One Out

There is an epilogue to the tale of Trish and the curse that hangs over her. A few weeks after her child died, things were mostly back to normal for her. Trish had always been a pudgy baboon, which made us all think she was a month overdue on her child when she was pregnant. In one brief moment, I even thought she had become pregnant again. The my senses took hold. So she went about her fat, low ranking business, getting pushed around and having relatively little support. She's not particularly remarkable except for being overweight and having defective breasts.

She became quite remarkable when one day, I was standing by one of the standard paths, trying to collect a bit of data, when Trish waddles by, carrying an infant on her back. It was a brown and gray infant, with not a trace of black hair remaining. Its legs straddled Trish's tail, its upper body lay flattened against her back, and the tiny arms clutched down at her flanks. This is the second most popular infant riding position, and once they get too big for a ventral mount (as this one very much was), this is just about all that their mothers will still allow.

The infant offered an occasional grunt, but I coudn't quite place the vocalization. It almost seemed as if it were complaining or in mild distress. Trish looked up at me as she passed with he infant, and quickened her pace to be rid of me. I was too shocked to follow. What the hell was this about?

This scene repeated herself for all of us several times, and left us all equally baffled. This infant clearly wasn't hers. It was only a year or so old, too young for us not to have seen her with it previously. So who's baby did Trish decided to adopt, or perhaps, who's baby decided to adopt Trish? And which mother was okay with her young infant pulling this kind of stunt?

At first, the running belief was that the infant was Punzle's, who was adventurous enough to perhaps make up for how bitchy Punzle tends to be. This theory was disproven when Trish trotted by with infant astraddle, and Hilda following not more than a few paces (baboon paces, not human). The scene played out with the infant hopping off Hilda for a brief suckle before returning to Trish.

I'm happy that of all the females, this has happened to Trish. Maybe it is precisely because of who she is and what she goes through that she seeks out surrogates so effectively. There are stories of females who go about it quite poorly: they effectively steal a baby from a lower ranking female and carry it around treating it as their own, except the infant usually can't suckle, and eventually dies. A bad business for everyone involved.

Trish is too low ranked for such disrespectful behavior. That doesn't explain why Hilda, one of the highest ranking females in the troop, is okay with this. It occurred to me that since she is one of the older females in the troop, Trish might be one of her own children. If this were the case, Trish ought not to be so low ranking herself, given baboons' matrilineal patterns of inheritance. Perhaps a granddaughter? That would make the ranking discrepancy less of an issue, but Hilda doesn't seem that old.

Wishy washy as it may seem, maybe Hilda is old and secure in her rnaking and motherhood habits, and is wise enough to see that Trish is not a threat, in moderation. The child is at least a year old, and Hilda's still keeping an eye on things. Its good for her, too, since she has to deal with the little brat less than if Trish hadn't been appointed baby-sitter. So it makes decent sense from a anthropomorphic standpoint, for whatever that is worth.

It seems like a small consolation for Trish, and its unclear if she's actually enriching the troop through this behavior. Yet, all of the three involved seem to be satisfied with the arrangement. Far from me to tell baboons what to do.

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