Giving Pause for Science
By Matt Wood in Miscellaneous on Dec 21, 2005 5:06PM
The Brookfield Zoo is leading a research project to study menopause in female gorillas. Scientists hope that the study will help them learn how to better care for aging gorillas and perhaps learn more about menopause in humans.
The study started when a former researcher at the zoo questioned whether it was necessary to keep giving birth control to Alpha, a gorilla in her 40s. She was still interested in sex, hanging out near the male habitat late at night, brazenly dangling bananas to lure them home with her. The zoo keepers give female gorillas contraceptives to control bleeding, but when they tested Alpha's hormones, they found that they were low enough that she didn't need birth control.
The average age of menopausal gorillas is 44, while in humans it is 51. Scientists hope that understanding menopause in the gorillas can help them understand how and why it evolved in humans. Some think it may just be a case of humans and captive gorillas living longer.
Pat Robertson, already on his way to town to sue Gov. Blagojevich for requiring pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception, perked up when he heard about the project. "You're giving gorillas birth control? That's it, get out my suin' pen," he said. When told that the study may help us understand more about human reproductive behavior, Robertson said, "Gorillas don't get menopause, are you crazy? That would mean they're somehow related to humans. And we all know God just made them share 95% of their DNA with us for funsies." He continued, "Lord, I can't wait until they start teaching intelligent design in schools so more people will understand this. What, you mean they can't do that? DAMNIT!"
Photo courtesy of CBS2Chicago.com