Almost Human: A Journey into the World of Baboons

Overview

In 1972, a young graduate student named Shirley Strum traveled to Kenya to study a troop of olive baboons (Papio anubis) nicknamed the Pumphouse Gang. Like our own ancestors, baboons had adapted to life on the African savannah, and Strum hoped that by observing baboon behavior, she could learn something about how early humans might have lived. Soon the baboons had won her heart as well as her mind, and Strum has been working with them ever since.

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Overview

In 1972, a young graduate student named Shirley Strum traveled to Kenya to study a troop of olive baboons (Papio anubis) nicknamed the Pumphouse Gang. Like our own ancestors, baboons had adapted to life on the African savannah, and Strum hoped that by observing baboon behavior, she could learn something about how early humans might have lived. Soon the baboons had won her heart as well as her mind, and Strum has been working with them ever since.

Vividly written and filled with fascinating insights, Almost Human chronicles the first fifteen years of Strum's fieldwork with the Pumphouse Gang. From the first paragraph, the reader is drawn along with Strum into the world of the baboons, learning about the tragedies and triumphs of their daily lives—and the lives of the scientists studying them. This edition includes a new introduction and epilogue that place Strum's research in the context of the current global conservation crisis and tell us what has happened to the Pumphouse Gang since the book was first published.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Anthropologist Strum was an unlikely candidate to study baboons in rural Kenya: her knowledge of animals and nature came from books; she lacked field experience and the requisite physical skills; and she had never yearned for adventure. But she adapted quickly to life in the wild, and her detailed observations over a 14-year period disprove the conventional wisdom about baboon behaviorthat their society is based on agggression and male dominance. She documents a peaceful society where friendship and reciprocity are more effective than aggression and females are the stabilizing force. This is an engaging story on two levelsthe baboons, of course, and Strum's gradual transformation from uncompromising scientist to humanist. There are interesting parallels and contrasts to Dian Fossey: both had problems with graduate students; unlike Fossey, Strum did not become emotionally involved with the animals, and she sought cooperation rather than battle with the natives. Strum also had support from a conservation and wildlife expert whom she later married. This volume is a worthy companion to Fossey's Gorillas in the Mist and Jane Goodall's In the Shadow of Man. Photos not seen by PW. Nature Book Association main selection; BOMC dividend selection. (November 9)
Library Journal
For the past 15 years, Strum, an anthropologist, has been observing olive baboons in Kenya. In this very personal and engaging account, she describes behaviors and relationships demonstrated by the ``Pumphouse Gang,'' a troop of 60 of these intelligent and socially brilliant animals. She also recounts her courageous relocation of three baboon troops. Most significant, however, is Strum's observation that baboons are a peaceful group whose success depends upon nonaggressive social strategies. Her findings, which conflict with an established model of primate behavior, have already met with controversy. This remarkable book should generate further dialogue. Highly recommended. Laurie Bartolini, Lincoln Lib., Springfield, Ill.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226777566
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2001
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 323
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Shirley C. Strum is a professor of anthropology at the University of California, San Diego. She is coeditor of The New Physical Anthropology, Natural Connections: Perspectives in Community-Based Conservation, and Primate Encounters: Models of Science, Gender, and Society, the last published by the University of Chicago Press. Strum has studied olive baboons in Kenya since 1972 and is director of the Uaso Ngiro Baboon Project.

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Table of Contents

Author's Note Foreword Acknowledgments Introduction
1. Starting Out
2. Two Newcomers
3. Peggy
4. Changes
5. Issues
6. Starting on the Males
7. The Saga of Sherlock
8. Bo and David
9. Some Solutions
10. Smart Baboons
11. Implications
12. Woes
13. Crop Raiding
14. Humans
15. Searching
16. Desperation—and a Happy Ending
17. Capture and Release
18. Final Moves
19. Freedom Appendices Appendix I: Communication Appendix II:
Table 1—Peggy: A Baboon Family Table 2—Peggy: Fifteen Minutes Table 3—A Field Worker's Daily Notes Bibliography Index Epilogue

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