(Part of The Plebian: April Fool’s Edition)
Matt Jackson, administrator at Jackson District Library and husband of assistant kinesiology professor Julie Cousins, experienced what one might call a “wild” mishap with a baboon while on a trip to Hell’s Gate National Park in Kenya.
The following is an open statement regarding Jackson’s monkey business:
One of the most intense and memorable events in my life happened in 2008 at Hell’s Gate National park in Kenya. This park doesn’t have any of the big predators, so hiking and camping is permitted. I ended a day of hiking on top of an escarpment overlooking an amazing valley and ready to take in the sunset. I was alone, alone with an assortment of wildlife in Kenya, but I’ve camped alone near grizzly bears, wolves and mountain lions in America, so I wasn’t really worried. No one else was within miles.
I left my pack and my hiking sticks on a bench and went to check out campsites and take in the view. I was about 30 yards from my pack when behind me, near the edge of the clearing, I spotted a huge alpha-male baboon- the size of a large dog. He was alone and I decided to film him. Soon after pressing record, he started slowly loping towards me, which turned to a steady trot, then an all-out, full speed charge. I didn’t know what to do in the case of a baboon attack, so on instinct I started yelling and swinging my camera bag around. I picked up some gravel and threw it at his face. He still charged full speed ahead. I decided it was a good time to run. Baboons are faster than me and he was soon just a few feet behind me. I turned on him and hit him in the head with my camera bag. He was 3 feet from me and lunging at me to bite, showing off his 4-inch canines. I was certain I was going to be bitten at that moment.
After a few more violent swings of my camera bag and a lot of barbaric yelling, he turned away from me and ran to my pack. I felt relief at first, but soon a sinking feeling came over me. That backpack had everything I owned. I knew I couldn’t let him drag it into the forest, or it would be gone forever. Full of adrenaline, I chased after him and arrived at the backpack just behind him. He picked up my pack and tried to carry it off, but he dropped it after a few feet. It was almost as big as him. By this time, I had my hiking poles, which I had left by my pack. The baboon was still near my pack, trying to get a better grip on it. I stepped in and beat him with my poles across the neck and back of the head. It was primal. The baboon retreated back to the edge of the clearing.
As I looked around to survey the scene, I realized that I had lost my sandals; my camera bag had broken open; and my camera, passport, money and immunization records were scattered around the campsite; and I was bleeding from scratches on my arms and leg and feet. As I gathered up my belongings, two more baboons showed up at the clearing and menacingly showed their canines every time I looked in their direction. They respected the swinging sticks and showers of rocks I threw at them, but there was no way I was sleeping at that site. I walked back to the main road and park headquarters to sleep in the safety of a caged-in public campsite. It took about 2 hours for my heart to go back to normal speed, which is about the time it took me to walk back to the entrance.
At headquarters, the park rangers thought the story was very funny. I later learned that pointing a camera at a baboon is a perceived challenge, so this alpha-male felt the need to meet this challenge. Lesson learned! I’m very happy the price for lesson didn’t involve losing a chunk of my arm or leg.
– Matt Jackson
*Although The Plebian is known for its completely fictionalized, mock articles, this is a work of nonfiction. The story of events is true to Matt Jackson’s memory. This is some purely truthful monkey business that just so happened to sound more like a Plebian article than reality.*