The Animal World of Albert Schweitzer: Jungle Insights into Reverence for Life

The Animal World of Albert Schweitzer: Jungle Insights into Reverence for Life

The Animal World of Albert Schweitzer: Jungle Insights into Reverence for Life

The Animal World of Albert Schweitzer: Jungle Insights into Reverence for Life

Excerpt

If Albert Schweitzer were to follow the inclinations of his own heart, his autobiography would appear in two parallel columns: in the first he would tell of books and people, of music and ideas; in the second he would tell of animal friends he has known and loved. Some of the material for such an autobiography now exists at Lambarene in the diary where Schweitzer records the important events of his life. He once showed me a page of it where he had noted two significant arrivals at the hospital on the same day -- the Dutch nurse, Maria Lagendijk, and the little, frightened antelope Léonie. It was no disparagement of the work of one of Lambarene's most competent and devoted nurses that the doctor seemed to think one arrival as worthy of notation as the other.

The natives had dug a deep pit on one of the jungle trails to trap animals, and into it plunged an antelope with her small fawn. When the natives arrived, the mother in her terror gave a mighty bound and escaped. The little fawn was left behind. The natives, knowing Doctor Schweitzer's custom of liberally rewarding those who bring him for his care the helpless creatures of the forest, animals hurt in some way, or babies whose mothers have been killed, carried the tiny fawn to him. He nursed it on a bottle, kept it in a pen adjoining his study, let it roam about his table in the evening until it began to eat his manuscripts and nibble holes in his trousers. Every afternoon when he had leisure he took it out for a gambol around him on the river bank beneath the palm trees. He would often sit on a low wall beside his house and let Léonie lick his arm for the salt in the perspiration.

"If Léonie licks my arm well, I know I have done a hard day's work," he used to say.

Dr. Schweitzer's relations with the animal life about him are . . .

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