Ol Pejeta is Westeros, and there is a Game of Thrones going on in it’s Chimpanzee Sanctuary.
Oscar is king. Born of royal blood, Oscar became alpha by overthrowing his father, Ndaronse. Ndaronse, an erstwhile bully too, abdicated for his son after a six-month fight for power. One that meant that suddenly, polio-stricken Judy moved from being Queen to being Queen Mother.
Oscar is a burly chimpanzee. He is the alpha male, the man’s man, and he rules with a chimpanzee fist. Mostly literally, sometimes with a metaphorical half. He has dibs on all the women in the group. To show deference, the women turn and show him their hindquarters. Sometimes it marks the start of something carnal. As law and order, he gets a lot of hugs, and a lot of requests, often followed by someone else getting his face punched for breaking the law. He takes food from everyone, including his disabled mother. Do you know how villainous you would have to be to steal food away from your mom? That tells everyone else that you are not to be messed with, that you are the kind of man who doesn’t understand apologies. That to you the language of the fists is the clearest dialect in the world.
There are two Kingdoms, and Oscar is King in the South. The King in the North is Niyonkuru, an old and wise king. Like all others on this side of Westeros, Niyonkuru fought his way up. His is a success story, having been rescued from the black market before being finding his way to Sweetwaters. But Niyonkuru’s side of things is quiet, too quiet, and the drama seems to be happening on Oscar’s side. Niyonkuru still has a fight within him, and the fire in his eyes makes it clear he can kick ass.
The real Game of Thrones is in the South, in Oscar’s kingdom. George is trying to overthrow Oscar and is not even doing much to hide his intentions. In fact, he wants Oscar to know, to never forget or feel comfortable. He wants him to have nightmares, to dream of bending the knee to anyone else. George and his buddy Ali Kaka are planning a coup, and trying to get the women on their side. George is the better traveled of the bromance, but also the one with a darker story. He was found bundled up in barbed wire, caged and displayed for sale in the open market somewhere in Mozambique. His rescuers moved him to South Africa, before finally flying him to Ol Pejeta in 2005. In this episode, George is afraid to come close to the electric fence because he recently got electrocuted. But his eyes tell the story of ambition and cunning ruthlessness. One day, he will rule this kingdom.
Ali Kaka, George’s wingman and lieutenant, was a South Sudanese army pet for the first one and a half years of his life. After that, one of his minders carried him on his shoulder to a place called Yambio. From there he caught a flight to Kenya, and eventually to Ol Pejeta, to a new life. To this point in time when he might just become the Hand of the King. George and Ali Kaka are excellent tool makers and often improvise tools to help them feed and win allies. To gain power, you have to show the people how you can serve them. Power isn’t handed here. You have to fight, cajole, beg, bribe, feed, and sweet talk your way to power.It’s not that simple. Each day is a fight for power, a complete game of thrones.
Poco also wants power. He is a disturbed contender, having spent his first seven years in a crudely made iron cage, hanging at a gas station in Central Africa. You can tell he has demented thoughts sometimes, and he still walks on twos like a human, especially when he feels like he is the center of the show. Poco in power though would be having Stannis finally win the Iron Throne. He is kingly, he seems to deserve power, but there is something that just doesn’t fit. Seven years in the middle of a warzone, playing clown to customers, will do damage even to the best of people. But Poco has put that behind him now, and the ambition in his cheeky smile is clear.
As you watch Game of Thrones from the rooftop, you realize that you are standing on a chimp holding facility, designed to hold the most genius criminal masterminds. Of note is the dashing Alley, a lesson in diabolical contradiction. She is a loving mother and a rather welcoming foster mother, the best in the entire sanctuary. But when the lights go off, she becomes a maniac, a genius maniac. She makes for the electric fence and uses sticks to connect the wires. The entire electric fence system short circuits, and goes off. Then, like Michael Scofield of the chimp world, she uses more sticks to make an opening and then seeks out other chimps to escape.
Unlike most of her peers, Alley’s story is one of privilege. She was born into money and raised in it. That might explain why she feels the need to save everyone else. When the five musketeers first arrived, traumatized and still healing the wounds of their journey, Alley took them in and shared her bananas. With tender loving care and a cunning ability to see opportunity, Alley is Varys, the Master of Whisperers here. She knows everyone, their secrets, and what makes them tick. She smiles, all the time, but she always has a plan.
Then there are the five Musketeers: Edward, Victoria, Jane, Romeo, and Julia. Rescued from a small sadistic wooden box on the last day of January 2005, the 5 are knights with an unknown past. Originally six, they had done the trip to Egypt before being sent back through Kenya, presumably to Nigeria. One of them died on the way and the others were discovered hungry, malnutrition and dehydrated. Their faces were covered in their own feces, and two had shotgun pellets. They had survived a horrendous ordeal, being locked in a tiny box with small ventilation holes for too many days. But that, that now is the past. They are Westerosi now, and they play the big leagues.
Ajabu uses her incredibly cute eyes to get more bananas than everyone. She is a miracle baby, literally, having sneaked through a proven contraceptive to demand her place in the chimp world. Here, she is Arya Stark, an incredibly cute little girl tossed into the perils of adult life a bit too soon, a bit too fast. She will adapt and learn to hold her own, and she will most likely thrive and survive. This Westeros is not a place for kids but once in a while, all the chest thumping and hindquarters form of deference beats the odds, dilutes the contraceptive, and sires forth the future.
Different fates, different journeys, most of them traumatizing. Now the chimpanzees, like a small community of human beings tossed together by fate, forge a society based on rules, chest-thumping, and hierarchies. They hold contests and fight for power so that by all means, at all times, the strongest male chimpanzee holds the mantle to protect everyone else. The fight for the Chimpanzee Iron Throne, presumably bedecked with bananas, goes on all day, every day. Every form of interaction is an opportunity to play social politics. Although the females have their own hierarchy, they play the most important part, outside of physical warfare, in determining who becomes and stays on as king.
One Story is Good,
till Another is told.
Featured Image by Safari254.
Read more about the Chimpanzees on the Ol Pejeta Website here.
Read about how to adopt a Chimpanzee here.