Among Chimpanzees: Field Notes from the Race to Save Our Endangered Relatives

Among Chimpanzees: Field Notes from the Race to Save Our Endangered Relatives

by Nancy J. Merrick
     
 

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Foreword by Jane Goodall

A former student and colleague of Jane Goodall shares stories of chimps and their heroes, and takes readers on a journey to save man’s closest relative.

 
Unbeknownst to much of the public, chimps are in trouble: censuses show them to be extinct in four African countries and nearly so in ten others. A large

Overview

Foreword by Jane Goodall

A former student and colleague of Jane Goodall shares stories of chimps and their heroes, and takes readers on a journey to save man’s closest relative.

 
Unbeknownst to much of the public, chimps are in trouble: censuses show them to be extinct in four African countries and nearly so in ten others. A large percentage of the remaining populations live in unprotected, increasingly fragmented forests.
 
When Nancy Merrick learned these startling facts in 2009, she decided it was past time to discover the extent to which chimpanzees are at risk across Africa and what can be done. Merrick had begun working with primates in 1972 as a young field assistant in Jane Goodall’s famous Gombe camp. Like the rest of the world at the time, she was swept up in the excitement of discovering the remarkable world of chimpanzees—their ability to fashion tools, their dazzling intelligence, and their complex relationships and societies. From that moment on, her human-centered worldview shifted, and she became a devoted advocate for our closest genetic relatives.
 
When Merrick returns to Africa decades later, she’s alarmed by how much has changed. Human activity, such as agriculture and logging, has encroached on natural habitats throughout equatorial Africa, endangering chimpanzees, gorillas, and bonobos. In an effort to understand what we can do to save great apes, Merrick connects with primatologists and conservationists who are trying to protect the last great forests. Visits to some of Africa’s parks, sanctuaries, and expanding agricultural areas reveal the urgency of the problems and the inspiration of the people leading the search for solutions. Along the way, Merrick demonstrates that the best hope for chimps and other great apes lies in connecting conservation to humanitarian efforts, ensuring a healthy future for animals and humans alike.
 
Among Chimpanzees is at once an inspiring chronicle of Merrick’s personal search to learn how chimps are faring across Africa and in captivity, a crucial eyewitness account of a very critical period in their existence, and a rousing call for us to join the efforts to be a voice for the chimpanzees, before it’s too late.


From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[A] sobering and cleareyed new book … part memoir, part travelogue and part clarion call to action.” 
New York Times Science Times

“The plight of wild chimpanzees is getting worse by the day, but no one seems to notice. If our closest relatives were to disappear, we'd be losing one of our most valuable connections to nature. Nancy Merrick brings home this message in an engaging first-hand account of the situation on the ground. The book is a must-read for anyone concerned, and comes with proposals that seek to harmonize conservation with human development.”
—Frans de Waal, author of The Bonobo and the Atheist

“This is a fascinating book that presents many delightful and insightful tales about chimpanzees, with all their remarkable individuality, cleverness, intelligence, creativity—their bright flame of consciousness—on display. It is also a passionate book that explains why we are in danger of losing them forever. You will love this book, I know. You will also, I hope, be haunted by it—and perhaps inspired as well, as you learn what people are doing to reverse the trend and save our closest living relatives from extinction.”
—Dale Peterson, author of Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man

Among Chimpanzees is an important book, documenting the dedicated struggle to ensure our great ape cousins survive in the forests and woodlands of Africa. The author paints a vivid picture of the contrasts between the Africa she encountered when she joined Jane Goodall’s multi-national research team back in 1972, and today’s very different Africa and its growing human population whose needs are central to both the threats and solutions of conservation and sustainable living in the 21st Century.”
—Ian Redmond, Chairman of the Ape Alliance and author of The Primate Family Tree

“Our close relatives, chimpanzees, are the poster animals for the destruction of other beings and their homes. Dr. Nancy Merrick’s outstanding and inspirational book shows clearly why we must all work together to save endangered and imperiled species so that future generations will inherit a planet that’s worth caring about. Those who work on behalf of other species are not ‘the radicals’ who should be silenced, but rather the compassionate people to whom we all must carefully listen and follow. Read and share this most important book.” 
—Marc Bekoff, author of Rewilding Our Hearts 

“In Nancy Merrick's inspiring memoir the future of the apes is too precarious to leave to the professionals. Her story of how she became a lifelong activist for chimpanzee conservation is heart-rending, uplifting and ultimately important because it gives powerful evidence of her core conviction: one person really can make a difference.”
—Richard Wrangham, co-director of the Kibale Chimpanzee Project, Professor of Biological Anthropology, Harvard University 

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807084915
Publisher:
Beacon Press
Publication date:
06/17/2014
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

Gombe, 1972

Juma and Peter were keeping up fairly well with the chimps, losing sight of them only occasionally. They were wearing khaki shorts and Tanzanian plastic sandals, and their legs were scratched repeatedly by bushes along the side of the path. I, on the other hand, quickly fell so far behind that I could no longer see chimps or observers. 

“Now what do I do?” I muttered out loud to myself, checking out one particularly large scratch across my knee. Just then, Juma sounded his distinctive call, something like the sound children make when playing Indians, to let me know they were nearby and in which direction. Feeling relieved that I wasn’t entirely lost, I clambered up the mountainside as rapidly as I could. The path was steep, and by the time I arrived, I was breathless and worn out—and very happy to see Peter and chimps seated on the ground, paused for at least a few moments. 

I bent over in exhaustion and put my hand up on a tree branch to steady myself, only to realize that I had placed my hand on top of someone else’s. I looked up to apologize to Juma, assuming it was his but instead found myself face-to-face with a young chimp named Pom, who was sitting in a low-lying tree. She gave me a curious look, implying “Don’t you know you aren’t supposed to touch us?” I removed my hand as quietly and respectfully as possible and backed away.

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Meet the Author

Nancy J. Merrick is an accomplished physician-internist and a reviewer for the Annals of Internal Medicine. She is the creator of ChimpSaver.org, a website teaching users why chimpanzees are remarkable and enabling them to advocate on behalf of chimps and other Great Apes. She is rapidly becoming a recognized leader in the battle to save great apes. She lives in Ventura, California.

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