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February 5, 2016
Q. During the middle of the last century, a circus act called Noell's Ark Gorilla Show offered this unusual challenge: “Wanted, athletic men to earn $5 per second by holding an 85-pound ape's shoulders to the floor.” What was the gimmick?
A. No gimmick at all. The apes in question were juvenile chimpanzees, forced to wear “silence of the lambs” masks (to control biting) and large gloves (to prevent them from maiming faces),” notes Joseph Henrich in “The Secret of Our Success: How culture is driving human evolution, domesticating our species and making us smarter.” Beefy linebacker types, eager to impress the crowds at this star attraction, lined up to give it a try. But during the show's 30-year run, no man ever pinned a chimp for more than five seconds. “The organizers... were wise to use young chimps, because a full-grown male chimpanzee (150 lbs.) is quite capable of breaking a man's back.”
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