Children of the 60s and 70s saw chimpanzees as friendly critters. They were dressed up in clothes, given a banana and portrayed as our funny cousins. The 1966 television show Daktari told the story of an African veterinarian and often episodes would feature Judy the chimp, this show didn’t play simian dress up. Episodes still turn up on Animal Planet channel.
The 1970 Saturday morning kid show, Lancelot Link – Secret Chimp played the chimps as humans card for a full half hour.
Created by comedy writers with top notch credits (Flip Wilson, Smothers Brothers, Carol Burnett Show) the show was a send-up of the James Bond/Man From UNCLE genre.
Lancelot Link cashed paychecks from A.P.E (Agency to Prevent Evil) and with his partner Mata Hairi were in a high stakes battle with evil villains from C.H.U.M.P.
Not unlike the early Godzilla movies, Lance’s mouth moved at a different rate than the words on the soundtrack.
Chimpanzee and human genomes are more than 98% identical and for this reason the subject of extensive medical experiments.
In the late 50s and 60s monkeys and chimps were the last animals shot into space before man took flight.
As a kid I recall more than one show where the narrator would show peaceful animal footage and intone something like, “Humans are the only creature with the capacity for war.”
Recent research has shown that chimpanzees will kill to expand their territory. Violent attacks on humans by chimps raised a pets show that thinking of them as always cheerful, fuzzy, friendly junior humans is an oversimplification. When things go bad chimps don’t fight fair and the adults animals are strong.
Turn the clock back to February 1, 1968 and we return to those halcyon days of dress up the chimp.
I have been told a monkey could do my job, looks like it has already been tried.
By Walt Beesley
Namtoa is making a personal appeal for funds.
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
If Namtoa could talk, he’d tell you it isn’t crazy at all.
Namtoa seems to understand but he isn’t so good on the talking bit because he’s a chimp and chimps do crazy things if you leave them alone. But he’s 100 per cent behind the drive to keep things alive a the county zoo in Atascadero.
The zoo started out years ago as an attraction for children. In fact, it was known as the Children’s Zoo. But adults like animals too, and as the animal population grew, so did public interest in it.
Upshot of the whole thing was creation of the San Luis Obispo County Zoological Society which can boast of 55 mammals plus dozens of exotic birds and reptiles which provide constant entertainment for the thousands who visit the place annually.
The zoo, however, costs money. And that is why Namtoa came to town.
A sociable four-year-old simian who took to a typewriter in the Telegram-Tribune editorial room like a veteran reporter, Namtoa is a public relations man par excellence. And even though he is not a promotional bore in the vein of the usual advance man, he makes his point.
He was a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Oatman of El Centro. (Now do you see where the chimp got his name? Spell Oatman backwards.)
Origin of the chimp is a mystery, but he’s a walking advertisement for the zoo and is asking everyone who can afford it to help with donations for animals and birds.
Namtoa has a chimp partner who used to be a stand-in on the “Daktari” TV series. These are the only two chimps in the zoo, but there are 10 monkeys who also are clowns.
Zoo manager Charles Paddock says contributions may be made to: “ZOO, Box 8, Atascadero, 93422.
The zoo in Atascadero is now named for Charles Paddock and is an accredited facility. The custom today is to refrain from dressing animals in human clothes. Oh, and reporters no longer use typewriters or rotary phones.