Baboon story makes a point

“Stress, Portrait of a Killer,” a National Geographic production with Prof. Robert Sapolsky (www.youtube.com/watch? v=eYG0ZuTv5rs ) is very good and has a happy ending. It’s 44.23 minutes in if you’re in a hurry.

Prof. Sapolsky says he studies baboons because, “If you live in a baboon troop in the Serengeti, you only have to work three hours a day for your calories, and predators don’t mess with you much. What that means is you’ve got nine hours of free time every day to devote to generating psychological stress toward other animals in your troop.

“They’re just like us! They’re not getting done in by predators and famines; they’re getting done in by -each other. They’re a perfect model for westernized stress related disease.”

Sapolsky has been studying one troop of baboons since 1978 when boom, in 1988 all the most aggressive and least socially affiliated males in the hierarchy died after eating tuberculosis tainted meat they found in the garbage dump of a tourist lodge.

None of the lower-status males, or any females were allowed by the high-status males to eat the garbage.

So, says Sapolsky, “what you were left with was twice as many females as males and the males who were remaining were the good guys. They were not aggressive jerks, they were nice to the females and they were very socially affiliated and it completely transformed the atmosphere of the troop.

“This particular troop now has a culture of very low levels of aggression. Violence and aggression were no longer tolerated by the troop. And 32 years later they are still peaceful, virtually stress free and thriving.

“Do these guys have the same problems [as they had prior] with high blood pressure? Nope. Do these guys have the same problems with brain chemistry related to anxiety, stress hormone levels? Not at all.”

Sounds like a plan to me. More women.

Happy belated International Women’s Day!

Diane Daiute

Sweet Home

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