I pose this question because it is an element of my novel The Menagerie: A Zoo Story (https://www.createspace.com/3803108 ). In my imaginary zoo, I created an imaginary exhibit that houses chimpanzees and elephants together – in the same space. It was very satisfying to conceptualize this because, in some ways, I actually began to believe my own fiction.
As a long-time zoo director, I think I know the answer and doubt that I would have the courage to actually try it. But I am already getting questions from my readers about the feasibility.
Here is an excerpt:
The screams were deafening in the confines of the indoor arena that had been used for introductions. Jack the young chimp was clearly terrified, despite the two weeks of gradual introductions, and the elephant Bebe was not responding well. She fanned her ears and lunged at him as he cowered along the wall. He attempted to grab and bite the end of her trunk, which made her even angrier.
“If anyone was going to get into it, it would be these two,” said Chelsea.
“I hope we don’t have to use the fire extinguishers on them,” said Janice. She was referring to the two, large Carbon Dioxide extinguishers that would spew a cloud of white powder in a loud woosh. Animals generally found them terrifying. Janice Fredricks was the training manager who had been working on the animals introductions over the past few weeks. The other animals had adapted fairly well and had gradually settled into a peaceful coexistence, choosing, for the most part, to remain separate.
Jack began to run along the wall as he looked back screaming. This seemed to prompt Bebe to give chase, trumpeting as she ran. She caught him with the end of her trunk and punched him forward. As he lay sprawled in the dirt, temporarily stunned and silent, she loomed over him. Chelsea and Janice held their breath. Bebe sniffed him with her trunk, lingering over his genitals, and then calmly walked away.
And later …
… her thoughts were interrupted by one of the chimps emerging from the forest below her. It was Jack and he was on a collision course with Bebe the elephant. They were both moving toward feeding stations in opposite directions, but their paths were about to cross. Chelsea held her breath, bracing for the encounter that was about to happen. Jack looked up startled and rose up for a better look. Bebe also stopped, and then walked toward the chimp in her path. Jack stood his ground and as the elephant drew near, she sniffed his genitals.
Billy Scales was nearby but outside the barrier and powerless to act.
Chelsea sat up in her chair in astonishment and Don turned to see what had captured her attention. Suddenly, as if choreographed, Bebe grabbed jack around his middle with her trunk and threw him up on her back. He sat for a moment in surprise before settling down to enjoy the ride. Bebe ambled down the path with the chimp on her back.
So my question is this. How conceivable is it to have chimps and elephants living together and interacting with each other on their own accord? Is it preposterous or too dangerous? Has it ever been tried anywhere? Might it be tried in some future zoo?
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