Tall, blond-haired Scott Lindbergh shaded his eyes from the sun as he searched the high limbs of a sycamore tree for a howler monkey, whose roars had shattered the quiet of the rural Dordogne valley in southwestern France. “Don’t the neighbors complain about the racket?” he was asked. “I don’t complain about their cows; they don’t complain about my monkeys,” dead-panned the youngest son of America’s renowned aviator hero, Charles Lindbergh.
For the past four years Scott, 32, and his French wife, Anika, have lived in cozy seclusion on the grounds of a 400-year-old estate in tiny Verlhiac, France. The Lindberghs spend most of their time raising and breeding South American monkeys—red and black howlers, sakis, woollys, cottontops, titis, marmosets and squirrel monkeys. Lindbergh is planning a book on the subject.
Like his famous father, who died in 1974, Scott is an impassioned conservationist. “We were close,” says Scott. “He was excited by my work—for both of us, studies like this are an approach to a vaster problem.”
The problem, says Scott, is the relationship between society and nature. “A city is a kind of zoo,” he says. “When you study the psychological ravages of captivity on animals, you understand the disorders you get in cities.
“Had I stayed in the U.S., I might be a banker or a businessman,” he says. “If an environment frightens you, you can go elsewhere and construct another. I’ll return to America to promote my book, but not to live. I’m happier here.”
Each day Scott allows his monkeys to swing free around the trees, feeding on the local vegetation. “We don’t have any problem with them eating glass or plastic as they do in regular zoos,” he says. “That is a problem associated with chronic boredom. The animals in most zoos are driven out of their minds.”
Scott has two older brothers, Jon and Land, as well as two sisters, Anne and Reeve. The kidnapping and murder in 1932 of their parents’ firstborn child, Charles Jr., pushed the Lindbergh family into permanent semi-isolation. “We didn’t go to the usual type of parties,” recalls Scott of his growing up. “Neither of my sisters was a debutante or anything like that. We were never taught there was anything particularly remarkable about my father’s flight.”
In fact, young Scott had to beg his father to take him to see the Spirit of St. Louis, the tiny plane that carried Charles Lindbergh across the Atlantic in 1927 on his famed solo flight. “We went to the Smithsonian one afternoon, and it was closed,” he says. “I caught a glimpse of the plane through a dusty window.”
It was during a school vacation—Scott attended both Cambridge and Strasbourg universities—that he met Anika in Paris. “We used to get good, long vacations,” Scott says. “That one was especially good.”
They have been married eight years. Anika, slightly older than Scott, is a prolific artist—most of her surreal paintings of exotic jungles contain a portrait of Scott in the undergrowth. Do they have any children?
“Oui,” answers Anika, “all 40 of our monkeys.”