The ba­boon do­ing his bit for his coun­try

In ad­di­tion to hu­man be­ings, the First World War in­volved mil­lions of an­i­mals – from horses and pi­geons to slugs! In this spe­cial year, Barn­field House Vet­eri­nary Cen­tre is spon­sor­ing a se­ries of ar­ti­cles re­mem­ber­ing an­i­mal helpers, he­roes and vic­tims of

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AWAR fought all over the world drew in an­i­mals from all over the world. Thus it was that Jackie, a Chacma ba­boon, came to en­list with the Third South African In­fantry Transvaal Reg­i­ment in 1915.

Jackie had grown up as a pet with the fam­ily of Al­bert Marr on a farm out­side Pre­to­ria.

When Marr joined the Transvaal Reg­i­ment as a pri­vate, he got per­mis­sion to bring Jackie with him. He had been trained to be­have like a hu­man be­ing, and this im­pressed the sol­diers so much that they made him the reg­i­ment’s mas­cot.

He wore a minia­ture uni­form and marched and drilled with his hu­man com­pan­ions. He also en­ter­tained them by light­ing cig­a­rettes and eat­ing with a knife and fork. He al­ways stood guard duty with Pri­vate Marr, and since his sight and hear­ing were keener than that of a man, he proved very use­ful.

Jackie’s reg­i­ment went first to Egypt and then to Europe. At the bat­tle of Aga­gia in 1916, Pri­vate Marr was shot in the shoul­der. Jackie licked his wound and com­forted him un­til he was taken to hos­pi­tal. Marr re­cov­ered and re­turned to the front lines, and so did Jackie.

In 1918, in Bel­gium, the reg­i­ment found it­self in its heav­i­est fight­ing yet. As the shells and shrap­nel rained down, Jackie be­gan fran­ti­cally pick­ing up stones and pil­ing them around him­self. His bar­ri­ers could not stop shrap­nel from se­verely in­jur­ing his leg and arm. Stretcher- bear­ers came to take him away but, at first, he would not let them near him.

Shriek­ing with fear and pain, bal­anc­ing on what was left of his leg, he kept turn­ing round and round and pil­ing up stones, try­ing to build a wall that would shut out the hu­man world and the war.

The stretcher-bear­ers did even­tu­ally coax Jackie to go with them. In the hos­pi­tal he was treated like any other wounded sol­dier. He sur­vived the am­pu­ta­tion of his leg and re­cov­ered his health, but he was never sent into bat­tle again.

After the war, he and Pri­vate Marr went to Eng­land, where they helped to raise money for the Red Cross. Mem­bers of the pub­lic could get a hand­shake or kiss from Jackie in ex­change for a do­na­tion.

In 1919, Pri­vate Marr and Jackie re­turned to South Africa, where they par­tic­i­pated in a num­ber of pa­tri­otic pa­rades. Jackie was awarded the Pre­to­ria Cit­i­zen’s Ser­vice Medal and a gold wound stripe.

In 1921, he died in a fire at the Marr fam­ily’s farm­house.

Throughou his­tory it has been commo for peo­ple to keep other pri­mates as pets and treat them like minia­ture peo­ple for en­ter­tain­men To­day, the dam­ag­ing ef­fects of such prac­tices are bet­ter un­der­stood. Not only does the pet trade pose a se­ri­ous dan­ger to wild pri­mate species, but in­di­vid­ual pri­mates suf­fer psy­cho­log­i­cally from be­ing kept among peo­ple. They have very com­plex so­cial be­hav­iours and need to be with mem­bers of their own species.

Pri­vate Al­bert Marr with Jackie, his pet ba­boon. The pair were both wounded dur­ing the First World War. Left, Jackie meets a young girl and very po­litely shakes her by the hand

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