I thought zoos these days consulted zoologists to make their animals as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. But I'm misguided. Los Angeles Zoo has employed a feng shui expert (at $4,500) to help three golden monkeys on loan from China "feel right at home." The feng shui is supposed to "ensure that the three endangered monkeys will have health, happiness, fertility and, of course, a strong life-force energy, in their new digs". As it happens, these monkeys are endangered thanks to similar ancient beliefs. It is hunted in China for medicines - its fur thought to prevent rheumatism.
But what really caught my attention was Los Angeles Councilman, Tom LaBonge's statement: "We don't have any books on feng shui for monkeys. We just have to assume that Darwin is correct and that there is a connection and what is good for humans is good for monkeys." While I'm glad he invoked Darwin, this connection goes both ways. There's just as much reason to invite golden monkeys into Mr LaBonge's home and let them rearrange his house. I have had some dealings with primates and I know they wouldn't waste this opportunity.
Perhaps Los Angeles Zoo would sponsor our closer relatives, the great apes, to open interior design consultancies? I'd guess the orangutans would remove your bathroom and toilet, suspend all furniture from the rafters and expel the Man of the House. The chimps, on the other hand, would invite in the neighbours for a smashing good time and a toilet-graffiti repaint. Meanwhile, the gorillas would swap your furnishings for pots of lucky bamboo and a party fogger, and install your Man of the House in a silversuit on a pedestal.
Then again, if Los Angeles Zoo wished to use its generous budget intelligently ($US7.4 million total cage cost), it could speak to someone who actually knows something. Baoguo Li of Shaanxi province, China is studying the behaviour and ecology of the golden monkey, Rhinopithecus roxellana.
(picture courtesy of www.messymonkeyarts.com)