CRAIG BROWN: What’s worse, a lion’s roar or a human bore?
Another day, another academic survey. A recent one from South Africa’s Great Kruger National Park suggests wild animals are more likely to run away when they hear humans chatting than when they hear a lion growl.
‘Fear of humans significantly exceeded that of lions throughout the savanna mammal community,’ concludes the survey.
‘Lions should be the scariest thing out there — but humans were much scarier,’ says the lead researcher, Professor Liana Zanette, from the University of Western Ontario.
The researchers went about their business by setting up hidden sound systems at various waterholes. Every time an animal came within ten metres, the sound system would be triggered to make one of two noises — either a) human beings chatting or b) lions growling. Cameras would then chart how quickly the animals took to their heels at each sound.
Much to the surprise of the researchers, the leopards and rhinos were twice as likely to beetle off at the sound of a human, and would run 40 per cent faster.
CRAIG BROWN: Much to the surprise of the researchers, the leopards and rhinos were twice as likely to beetle off at the sound of a human, and would run 40 per cent faster than when hearing a lion growl
But who were the animals forced to listen to? Sadly, Professor Zanette’s report fails to include any mention of who the humans on the recording were, or what they were chatting about.
My guess is that she set up a microphone in the staff room of the University of Western Ontario, and recorded her fellow Canadian academics chatting among themselves.
Sadly, whenever academics are gathered together, they either grumble about their timetables or gossip about their colleagues, often in disparaging terms.
Nor is the University of Western Ontario — founded by Bishop Isaac Hellmuth in 1878, motto ‘Truth and Usefulness’ — generally regarded as a conversational hotspot.
When the leopards and rhinos in the Great Kruger National Park heard recordings of these Canadian academics jabbering on, it’s not surprising they took to their heels and ran away as fast as their feet would carry them.
To be fair to the University of Western Ontario, it’s not as if most human speech is worth sticking around for. Often, I find myself outside noisy get-togethers in pubs or parties, feeling delighted that I can walk away without getting involved.
I’ve recently unearthed a wonderful little book of Michael Heath cartoons, Private Eye’s Starbores, which was published in 1979. It consists of 50 or so tedious conversations about topics current 44 years ago.
In one of them, a fuller-figured lady bores on to a friend about her new diet — ‘This new diet system I’m on is absolutely amazing can’t you see the difference?
‘You take one of these pills every morning and then eat a very large breakfast but you must drink eight pints of water with it, then you lie on your back for half an hour. Then you don’t eat anything for 48 hours except for oranges and rhubarb but, after that, you can eat as much as you like so long as you don’t have any meat or bread or sugar.’
In another, someone says: ‘Don’t tell me, you’re a Gemini, I knew it as soon as I saw you. I always get on with Geminis you see, I’m a Sagittarius and we’re warm-hearted extrovert people who are outgoing and unusually interested in other people.’
The striking thing about all of them is how little our conversations have changed over the course of the past 45 years: they’re still as boring as ever.
When the leopards and rhinos in the Great Kruger National Park heard recordings of these Canadian academics jabbering on, it’s not surprising they took to their heels and ran away as fast as their feet would carry them
A bicyclist bores on about fare increases on public transport: ‘So I thought I’d invest in a bike, I’d saved the money I paid for it in the first week and ask me how fit I am.’
A short-haired woman drones on about the patriarchy: ‘Far too much children’s literature published today is still oriented to a basically male-domination ethos.’
And a couple in a kitchen full of wipe-clean worktops go on about wildlife shows: ‘Have you watched any of those marvellous David Attenborough programmes, they’re absolutely wonderful… apparently there are about 2 million sorts of moth and one of them lives in the sea and it’s never been photographed before.’
In a way, this book shows how little even the sharpest satire can alter anything: nearly half a century on, we’re still boring each other senseless, rattling on about Attenborough, the patriarchy, fare increases, star signs and diets.
Faced with all this, which of us wouldn’t prefer to hear a lion growling?
Source: Read Full Article