Survival Instincts

I came home from work so tired the other night I had no energy to make anything to eat other than a piece of toast with olive spread that I ate standing at my kitchen counter. That would have to suffice as ‘dinner’. All I wanted to do was get into bed under the covers and find something to watch on TV, as long as it wasn’t cable news. So I stumbled onto “Baboon Queen” on the National Geographic Wild Channel, which had already started 15 minutes prior. The program followed the life of Tubu, a female baboon in Botswana. These shows which focus on the trials and travails of a single animal are really effective at making the viewer feel emotionally invested in that individual. Because by the end of this thing I was bawling my eyes out, my head on the pillow, dabbing my cheeks with tissues. It was an embarrassing display.

The last days of Tubu’s life were heartbreaking. Old, lanky, and slow, she became separated from her troop, grunting out distress calls to them from tree branches to no avail. Tubu was left behind. The last images of Tubu show her despondently stooping down into the reedy backwaters under the golden African sun, and disappearing. She had had enough. She was done.

In my sobbing state, I was reminded – with the help of the program’s narrator – that Tubu had lived an extraordinary life by baboon standards. She reached an amazing 25 years of age, had multiple children, became a grandmother and a great-grandmother. The queen of her baboon troop. Over the years she grieved the losses of vulnerable newborns who didn’t make it and the murdered deaths of other family members. She battled with leopards and other predators, got sprayed with the venom of a poisonous snake and was temporarily blinded. The life of Tubu was marked not just by hardships and survival-of-the-fittest clashes, but also by tight-knit community, familial bonds, and affection. It’s because her life was so incredible that her demise was particularly heart-rending. After all she had survived in the wilds of Botswana, to die lost and alone like that . . I couldn’t handle it πŸ˜₯

From the Metropolitan Museum collection, baboon ointment jar, ca. 1800-1550 B.C., Northern Upper Egypt. This is so cute. Can I have this? πŸ™‚

Wildlife shows are illuminating in many ways. Apart from their standard educational value they can often evoke deeper, more universal truths. Survival instincts are not exclusive to wild animals on the African plains. Females everywhere require vigilance, acumen, and determination to preserve their lives. Big cities like New York are metaphorically called ‘jungles’, and they are. Whether it’s in an urban jungle, a workplace jungle, or a literal jungle, females have to protect their bodily safety and the safety of their children. Predators and dangers are out there .. everywhere. Tubu the baboon knew it, and she fought tooth and nail for her survival. We do what we have to do.

One of my favorite videos on YouTube. Watch this mother elephant protect her baby while crossing the road. The adorable little one is naturally curious and trusting toward the tourists in a jeep with their clicking cameras. Mama knows better. Check out the death stare look in her eyes around :37. It’s like she’s saying, “Try me. Just try me.”

I want to wish Museworthy readers a very happy Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for all of you! Enjoy your extended weekend if you have one. I know I’ll be enjoying mine, maybe watching more nature shows πŸ™‚

14 thoughts on “Survival Instincts

  1. roberta m says:

    Lovely post–and the video is precious! Happy Thanksgiving to you also!

  2. kdmedina says:

    It’s okay to feel our feelings, Muse!

    Happy Thanksgiving!


  3. Kathi Kirkpatrick says:

    Hi Claudia:

    I so enjoyed this post. I remember seeing a special on elephants & how the mother stays so close to her baby. So precious. Thanks. Kathi

    • artmodel says:


      Wonderful to get a comment from you, thank you! I watch elephant nature shows a lot and the mothers with babies are the most beautiful parts. Elephant communties have such strong bonds. Amazing creatures.

      Thanks again, and hope to see you soon!


  4. Dave says:

    I’m thankful for Museworthy and figure modeling. Happy Thanksgiving, Claudia!

    • artmodel says:


      Figure modeling deserves all the thanks in the world! Amen to that. And I’m very touched that you’re thankful for Museworthy. I am too πŸ™‚

      Happy belated Thanksgiving! Hope everything is well.


  5. Bill says:

    I plan to visit the Met soon — if you tell me what room the ointment jar is kept in, I’ll see what I can do about filching it for you. Hmmm . . . I’ll need to find an accomplice to distract the guard . . .

    It was nice to read a story about baboons that wasn’t about our elected officials for a change πŸ™‚

    Happy Thanksgiving, Claudia!

  6. Gregory says:

    The video obviously touched you at a deep level, as it did me. I felt my daughters dedication to her children in this beautiful creature and experienced gratitude that they both are so naturally inclined to protect this most precious part of their lives. Happy Thanksgiving Claudia. I feel grateful for you and the lovely work you do both on and off the posing stand.

    • artmodel says:


      Thank you so much for your sensitive comments. I was touched by your reference to your daughter and her devotion to her children. While there are hundreds of elephant/wildlife videos on YouTube, something about this one really resonates. Even though the tourists obviously weren’t going to hurt the baby, the mother doesn’t take that chance. You never take that chance. Ever.

      I appreciate your kind words, thank you! I’m grateful for readers like you and the friendships I’ve formed through this blog. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!


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