In Bali, this wild macaque has apparently adopted a stray kitten. Aside from the neat factor, (which is incredibly high) this sort of thing highlights the the unknowable nature of the natural world.
Its hard to understand the motives of other humans, even those that are figments of the writerly imagination, but animals? Fergedabout it! My first assumption is that the monkey, a male, is caring for the kitten as he might a baby, out of love, or emotional need or something human and understandable. But, really, who knows? This monkey has a whole inner world that we can not even begin to guess at.
During this summer's vacation, our family went on a whale watch off the Northwest tip of Newfoundland. We encountered a pod of Orcas that were new to the whale watch thing, and these whales spent over an hour inspecting us and our small-seeming boat. They nudged its hull, "spy hopped" at the bow to get a better view, blew their seafood breath up into our faces, lingered just beneath the water-- less than 6 feet away-- watching. It was easy to imagine some sort of kinship between us, intelligent mammal to intelligent mammal. Then they took off, churned the water 100 yards away and returned to the ship with a dead seal, all but turned inside out in their jaws. When the gazing and nudging and eye-to-eye continued, there was a different feel to it. There was no knowing the minds of these creatures. We'd imagined we were forging some sort of bond but the whales, well, for all we know, they were trying to figure out how if we would be lunch!
We, humans, imagine that if we could teach an animal (perhaps, a gibbon!) to communicate using sign language or symbols on a board or ESP or whatever, we could know this animal, discover an intelligence, thought process and soul much the same as our own.
This is a pretty huge assumption. It seems these experiments tell us more about ourselves than they ever could about the animals we are studying.
I think I prefer the mystery, the knowing there are ways of being so different from my own that I can only glimpse them momentarily, in the calm black oval of a whale's eye, for instance, or this oddball macaque.
*whale picture us from National Geographic (Camera died on the whale watch!)