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Radiolab on This American Life

Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 03:52 PM

This weekend, catch Radiolab on This American Life! As part of their upcoming "Parent Trap" episode, TAL will be airing a haunting epic about a famous chimpanzee named Lucy.

When Lucy was only two days old, she was adopted by a psychologist and his wife. The human parents wondered, if given the right environment, how human could Lucy become? As you might expect, this experiment in species-confusion is just the sort of thing one should not try at home.

FIND OUT where and when This American Life is playing near you.

If you miss that broadcast, our version of the Lucy story (with a few extra bits!) will be in our next episode on the podcast, coming out on Friday night.


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Comments [28]


still looking for that photo of lucy and janice embracing......... can anyone help?

Jul. 06 2012 08:46 PM
kate from Minneapolis MN USA

Where is the photo of Lucy and Janis embracing????

Feb. 20 2011 04:22 PM
Isaiah from Los Angeles, CA United States

The story was magnificently recounted. And what a sad, terrible, haunting story it was. Not only did Lucy get abandoned by her mom and dad, but at the same time she was transported to a different planet she knew nothing about. Everything she knew, every word and sign, every comfort, every root assumption about the world, was gone in an instant, and with no explanation. I can't imagine a more cruel circumstance. And as if that weren't enough, humans came back once again to slaughter her, finally.

I don't think I'll ever, EVER, be the same after hearing this story. Truly, I can't let my thoughts settle too long on this because it is more than I can bear.

Feb. 20 2011 05:56 AM
marilyn kastien

The story of Lucy brought to KUOW by This American Life broadcast is another example of the crazy programing here. I loved this story for the second time and have deep convictions about human lack of understanding regarding other species (arrogance and ego that will do us in eventually). But let me once again address the fact that KUOW does not program Radio Lab regularly but brings it through TAL, which has been a regular for decades.

Kudos to Radio Lab for courageous reporting.

Feb. 19 2011 04:52 PM
Michael Lopez from Vallejo, CA

I just listened to the story of Lucy on This American Life and I can't stop crying about Lucy's demise. Actually, the whole story of this experiment and the horrific change she had to endure and her confusion of who (and I say who because she had feelings and emotions, too) she was told she was suppose to be but wasn't and how cruel we as humans are to experiment with nature in this way for our own curiosity. The only way I can comfort myself is that we humans do our best to learn from our mistakes. Rest In Peace, Lucy, Rest In Peace.

Dec. 20 2010 05:24 AM

I listened to this on my way to work and found myself so moved, that I cried on the subway. And then, I tried to give a synopsis of the story to someone at work and couldn't get beyond the beginning when they took Lucy away from her mother when she was only 2 days old. The story was very well done. It could have easily been over sentimentalized, but it was factual and thoughtful, and all the better for it. I have now added Radiolab to my podcast list (heard this through “This American Life”).

Mar. 03 2010 08:08 PM

It's been about 12 days,and every single day I think of Lucy and that beautiful picture,and I get as choked up as I did when I listened to the podcast. Thanks guys for bringing me this harrowing story.

Feb. 28 2010 03:38 AM

I have never sobbed so hard while listening to radio. This story is haunting me. There really isn't much different between the couple that adopted Lucy and the poachers. For both Lucy was merely a prop to service their needs. Our species is truly the most destructive and dangerous element that exists on this planet.

Feb. 27 2010 09:33 PM

This story was heart breaking - I couldn't listen to the ending because my car trip had ended and I didn't want to be caught blubbering in front of other people (too late). So I came back later to catch the ending - the photo of Janis and Lucy brought immediate tears - and I think the tears and the photo says it all.

Feb. 27 2010 12:57 AM
Daniela Hale

What a touching story! It still haunts me after 2 days. The betray Lucy must have felt. I as well hope her death came quick.
Lucy's encountered the worst and the best of humans. I believe there is a direct link between animal rights and world peace. The time will come, when we humans finally evolve out of our arrogant believe, that we above other living beings. They will look back in awe, like we looked back in awe at the Holocaust, and ask "How could we have had let this ever happen" "How could anybody ever justify such suffering?"
Thank you for the story. Sad as it is.

Feb. 24 2010 06:32 PM

I just made a decent donation the the Jane Goodall Institute (no affiliation). Goodall apparently spoke against Lucy's treatment and JGI takes care of chimps. It lifted some of the sadness I've felt since I heard the broadcast.

Feb. 24 2010 05:24 PM

RadioLab and T.A.L. = the two best radio shows EVER...sorry Click and Clack, you come in third

Feb. 23 2010 10:18 PM

I thought it was completely irresponsible of educated people to rip a baby monkey from her mother before she was to be weened.

In spite of the need for scientific exploration and study the end to this story was hard to swallow. This woman janice is a true mark to humanity and I admire her and her desire to help animals.

on the other side to this story it's also an awful example of how trusting humans will always be animals worst enemy. It's an example of just how vile and disgusting humans continue to be just for the sake of poaching.

Feb. 23 2010 08:18 PM

What happened to Lucy happens every day around the word in the name of research. Helpless animals are subjected to lives of confusion a the least, like Lucy, and horrid suffering and mutilation at worst. What strikes me at my core is the arrogance of the human species to truly believe it is OK to do these "experiments" to acquire knowledge. Every second of Lucy's existence went against the genetic coding given to her by nature and the universe. The animal kingdom is not lost or confused by life, they know exactly what to do everyday they live and breath and we have no right to take or endanger that. Those years of observation and discovery, when the couple were "trying to see how human Lucy could be" may not appear cruel,but were because they truly denied Lucy her life, her true self, which all wild animals possess. After years of denying lucy her genetic birthright, their pathetic and poorly researched attempt to give it back to her, caused her murder.
Did any knowledge gained from such an experiment advance the lives of humans, animals, the planet, in any way?If so only at the expense of our character.
Animals have no choice in experimentation.It is up to us to protect them and not use them. Mahatma Gandi said" the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated".

Feb. 23 2010 02:25 AM

I noticed a strange difference between the T.A.L. and the R.L. edits of this story... in the T.A.L. edit... they said Lucy made up a new word for "onion"... in the Radiolab version... they talked about the word invention to describe a strong radish taste. Why the difference?

Feb. 23 2010 01:38 AM

Radiolab > TAL.

(note the period, thnx)

Feb. 22 2010 04:29 PM
Bill B

I'd like to thank you for turning me into a blubbering idiot on my bus ride into work this morning.

Feb. 22 2010 11:38 AM
Sally Keller

Thank-you for Lucy's story. It's an example of how humans domesticate and use animals and then discard them. Lucy was clearly unsuitable for being returned to the wild and maybe some animal experimenter will pause before treating another living, loving being like a car in a parking lot.

Feb. 22 2010 10:18 AM

Nice story. The photo of the hug is amazing, as are many of the others.

Feb. 21 2010 11:47 PM
Dr H.

I understand the above responses, and concur with most. I can feel some sympathy with the original intention of Lucy's 'foster parents', despite the lack of forethought. Lucy was already a domesticated animal at birth and one wonders how long she might have lived in the 'side-show'. Under no circumstances should she have been returned to the [unknown] wild! This was a death sentence and ought to have been recognised as such. I have taken in more than six stray cats (two of which were feral and one of which has FIV and may not mix with the other cats. I have spent thousands (at a rather financial predatory animal hospital) during the past two decades and would never consider putting these animals out in the elements. Lucy is perhaps a more complex and serious case. The moral issues are the same. I was greatly saddened to think of how this trusting animal must have died.

Feb. 21 2010 09:40 PM

I am devistated. Bereft. Covered in tears with my cat on the couch. Her head resting on my thigh as she snores peacefully.
The idea that human beings can be so cold to animals regardless of their clear emotional natur makes me wonder about their humanity.
How do you take an aniimal from its indigenous environment, humanize it and then release it back to the wild to die?

The picture of Lucy and Janice is so haunting.

Feb. 21 2010 09:14 PM
Jenn Lopez

I agree with the comments so far. I am so saddened that sweet Lucy was left unprotected on the island, especially with the knowledge that poaching is common in the area. What a horrible ending to her life. Would these scientists have abandoned a child with ADHD? After essentially teaching her to trust humans, Lucy should never have been left without a caretaker on the island. I just hope that her end came painlessly and quickly.

Feb. 21 2010 06:13 PM

In the name of science?
Once again I am struck by the insistence of humans to figure out how we fit in with nature. We do not. A wild animal belongs in the wild. End of story. To try take a fish out of water never works. When will we ever learn? This tragedy was avoidable on all fronts. Janice's committment is awe inspiring. Maybe science can learn something from that. This story broke my heart- what a web that was woven and who suffers the consequence? The animal. So sad. Thankyou for bringing the story to radio.

Feb. 21 2010 03:10 PM

I had a severe crying episode after listening to the story of Lucy. I turned it off before it ended and went to lay down to pet my bunny who was adopted by us when she was 6 weeks old and blind with an infection. Now she is 2 years old and has her sight back but only knows how to live in a human house. I know what would happen to her if I let her go in the wild. Lucy's "parents" were cruel and negligent. How could this "educated" couple not know the tragic ending Lucy would meet? Once the commitment was made, the humans should have followed through. They took advantage of her just like the poachers...Heartbreaking

Feb. 20 2010 11:51 PM

The story of Lucy is an agonizing tale of mixing the human and animal species. The couple that took Lucy away from her mother were not well intentioned, merely intellectually curious, shame on them. The heros are Janice Carter and Lucy - who seems to have died because she shared the rare human quality of trust- to of one of her natural enemies-poachers.
This is radio at it's best-

Feb. 20 2010 11:02 PM

I share the same feelings as Robin, but also understand the original couple's initial reason to conduct the study, however, its clear they didn't plan very well for a good and reasonable exit from the "study". I would hope others interested in doing a similar study would learn from their serious mistake.

Feb. 20 2010 08:14 PM

I have been haunted by the story of Lucy.
I was grateful to hear it, yet so saddened that it ever took place. Thanks to Janice but shame on the original couple who were so selfish and then left the problem for someone else to deal with.
GOD BLESS JANICE... Poor Lucy and her mother that I am sure hurt... Robin

Feb. 20 2010 07:54 PM

Love TAL & Radiolab get-togethers

Feb. 19 2010 06:42 PM

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