As soon as I got to know the primatological world of Sukhum, I was struck by the generational gap that defines it. On one hand, there were the seniors, still coming to work at 85 years or more and running the business. On the other hand, the new generation of researchers was reaching its 30’s. There were almost no people in between. Professor Lapin was 90 (I mentioned his grand celebrations in a previous post), Dr. Shevtsova already 84 and so on. In the cages, in the non-human primate world, the old characters were equally revered. During my first visit I met the Professor, a wise and authoritative baboon, aged 34. He died a year later, on the day his last kid was born.
In Abkhazia, longevity is in the air and the nation brands itself as a country of centenarians: in the National Museum there is a panel of photos showing people that have lived over 120 years. Henri Barbusse – the French communist writer – mentions in his travel diaries to the USSR meeting Nikolai Shapkovski, who was 146 years old by then (in 1930)… Is this a coincidence if Japan – who has a strong primatological school – also boasts its longevity record?
Anyway, rejuvenation has been a strong research direction of the Primate Institute in Sukhum since a long time. In “Tarzan’s Testicles” there’s a couple of scenes in which you can see old monkeys subjected to DHEA experiments. That’s an anti-aging hormone. Rejuvenation comes with a bonus: these alpha-males have – after treatment – been able to procreate again. Don’t worry, you don’t have to wait: DHEA has been available for 40 years in human pharmacies across the US:)