Meshie the chimp

This is a chimpanzee in the primate hall of the American Museum of Natural History.  Her name is Meshie. In the 1930’s, one of the museum curators found her during a trip to Africa, adopted her, and brought her back to the U.S. to raise as part of his family. (This is possibly the inspiration for Bedtime for Bonzo.) He was said to be distant and withholding to his own young children, but he doted on Meshie.  He staged home movies in which they all interacted like siblings, including scenes in which Meshie slept with the children and bottle-fed his baby daughter.

In addition to receiving all their dad’s affection, Meshie turned out to be a nasty piece of work who made the kids’ lives hell (as a creature that is four times stronger than you and is subject to periodic fits of rage is prone to do).  The curator’s son, now in his 70’s, still has a scar on his hand where she bit him.  The curator was the only one who could handle her, and he was forced to donate her to a zoo when he left on another long collecting expedition.  Meshie couldn’t handle life in a zoo or with other chimps, and she died a few years later.

The zoo gave her body back to the curator, and he had her put on display in his museum.

Meshie’s story is a sad one about cruelty stemming from short-sightedness, scientific arrogance, and possibly even good intentions.  But the curator’s son still visits the museum from time to time.  And how cool is it to be able to go see the stuffed body of your oldest nemesis behind glass?