How honored should I feel?

Hello, All,

On May 6, 2016, I emailed a question to Cecil and he replied in his column of June 10th. I didn’t expect him to reply at all, ever, so you can imagine my surprise. But now I’m wondering just how unlikely that is. Not the rapidity of the turnaround but rather the odds he would answer my question at all.

Very rough math here: 52 columns a year since 1973 is 52 * 43 = 2,236 columns. How many people write Cecil and never see the reply in a weekly column? Or maybe the question is how many questions does Cecil receive, which accounts for multiple mails from the same person.

If he receives ten such questions a week then I don’t feel quite as honored as if he receives a hundred. Is this datum knowable?


P.S. You can see my discussion of this exchange at If you have an aswer to the question I really asked, please let me know.

Thanks for sharing the link to your site and original question! It’s fascinating to see things from the question-asker’s perspective. I assumed the questions were often edited/trimmed, but the question Cecil answered was indeed a bit different than the you ultimately asked, which was “Why is cannibalism regarded with such revulsion?” Perhaps the answer is that most people are uncomfortable with the idea of somebody eating them after they die, and so we’ve developed a cultural aversion to it. I wonder if chimpanzees and bonobos and other meat-eating apes practice cannibalism…

Geez. The letter, as published by Cecil, is rather substantially edited!

Chimpanzees and bonobos are known to be cannibalistic.

Thanks for going to the trouble of answering that, Irishman. (Word of warning to anybody who clicks on the link Irishman posted: if you scroll down, there’s a pretty graphic photo of what I believe is a dismembered gorilla, along with a skull. Not 100% sure if it’s a gorilla or chimpanzee, but it looks like a gorilla to me. I think it’s a picture of the illegal “bushmeat” trade.)

The evidence of cannibalism among chimpanzees and bonobos in the link provided seems to mostly consist of the killing and eating of infants by adults, in some cases by adult female chimpanzees. I knew that sort of infanticide was common in lions/cats, and had been seen when new males take over a chimpanzee troop, but I didn’t know that female chimps did that. I wonder exactly how common it is.

“Dismembered gorilla?” Didn’t read; didn’t link; but you hit the jackpot! Please continue to post.

Cecil pointed out a spelling error I had in a mail I sent about a column from 2000. I don’t want to link to it since it is signed with my real name but I’ll PM anyone that cares.

Not exactly as cool and the Perfect Master writing a column but I’ll take what I can get.