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The Intimate Ape: Orangutans and the Secret Life of a Vanishing Species

Overview

For centuries the shaggy red orangutan lived in peaceful seclusion in the jungles of Southeast Asia and kept the ancient secrets about its quiet, contemplative nature. But that time has come to an end, as one of the earth's most intelligent creatures has, sadly, also become one of its vanishing species.

In The Intimate Ape, journalist Shawn Thompson brings together a global assemblage of primatologists, conservations, and volunteers to reveal the intricate life of these majestic...

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The Intimate Ape: Orangutans and the Secret Life of a Vanishing Species

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Overview

For centuries the shaggy red orangutan lived in peaceful seclusion in the jungles of Southeast Asia and kept the ancient secrets about its quiet, contemplative nature. But that time has come to an end, as one of the earth's most intelligent creatures has, sadly, also become one of its vanishing species.

In The Intimate Ape, journalist Shawn Thompson brings together a global assemblage of primatologists, conservations, and volunteers to reveal the intricate life of these majestic primates. As he travels through the steamy rain forests of Sumatra and the jungle river valley of Borneo, visiting nature preserves and observing conservation programs, Thompson describes the emotional and intellectual lives of orangutans, and recognizes the people who have committed their lives to understand, protect, and ultimately rescue this powerful yet sensitive relation of humanity.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Of all the great apes, orangutans have been the most neglected by researchers. In this remarkably empathetic book, Thompson (Letters from Prison) sets about correcting this omission. Interweaving his own contact with the apes with the work of primatologists and veterinarians who have made studying orangutans in the forests of Borneo and Sumatra their mission, and how the unassuming orangutan—ostensibly the least compelling primate—came to demand his due. Thompson establishes the individuality of the reclusive Indonesian apes—the paralyzed but inquisitive Kiki; Kusasi, the dominant maverick; the elusive Merah, who bonds with humans over their shared affection for her baby. We also learn that they fashion a kind of leaf doll to take to bed with them, that the Sumatran subspecies are adept at making and using tools, that they communicate and analyze the intentions of others. Even if the narrative gets bogged down and buckles under the weight of detail (some of it quite dry), there is still abundant pleasure to be found in the book’s earnest and affectionate portrait of this captivating and increasingly imperiled species. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Known as the "red apes" and the "thinkers of the jungle," orangutans are the most solitary and preoccupied of the great apes. While highly intelligent, calculating, and expressive, they are also likely to vanish from their native tropical forests in Borneo and Sumatra within a matter of decades. With these facts in mind, Canadian journalist Thompson interviewed orangutan researchers and rehabilitators about their complicated relationships with these humanlike apes. Some of the scientists are well known—such as Herman Rijksen and Biruté Galdikas—while others are less so, but all are (or were) intensely dedicated individuals who have made orangutans the priority of their professional and personal lives. VERDICT Unlike Galdikas's Great Ape Odyssey or Desmond Morris's Planet Ape, this is not a summary of the latest scientific research on the orangutan species but an exploration of the inner spirit of individual orangutans and the nature of the human-orangutan bond. General readers interested in the great apes will be captivated by the rich life histories of famous orangutans such as Kusai, Azak, and Sugito. Strongly recommended for all natural history collections.—Cynthia Knight, Hunterdon Cty. Lib., Flemington, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
Up-close encounters with a fascinating group of people and the orangutans with whom they share their lives. In 2001, at the age of 50, Thompson (Journalism/Thompson Rivers Univ.; A River Rat's Guide to the Thousand Islands, 1996, etc.) made his first trip to Borneo where he visited sick and orphaned orangutans. Spending "hours and hours" at the clinic proved to be a life-changing experience, as the author came to realize that "a creature like this can think and feel like you do." He watched veterinarian Rosa Maria Garriga work tirelessly with the orangutans. He learned the story of the famous Kusasi, who was orphaned and taken captive in the late '70s, then rescued and taken to a camp. Travelling between the bush and the camp, Kusasi thrived to become the dominating orangutan in the area. One of the disputed issues among primatologists is whether humans should act as surrogate mothers for orphaned orangutans, who normally stay with their mothers until they are seven. Thompson met several primatologists who mothered orphaned apes with mixed success-some of the apes became overattached, jealous and ultimately dangerous or unable to cope in the wild. The author gives due credit to famed primatologists Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall, who "perceived different aspects of apes because they saw them as individuals with an emotional life." Thompson ponders the unique intelligence of orangutans, who appear to have the IQ of a three-and-a-half-year-old, yet don't have a child's mind. Advances the compelling message that we have much to learn from orangutans as their numbers diminish.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780806531335
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 3/1/2010
  • Pages: 292
  • Sales rank: 832,556
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword: Orangutans, Us, and a Common Planet Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson ix

1 Jungle Confidential 1

2 In Deepest, Darkest Borneo 28

3 Forest Murmurs 47

4 Touched by an Ape 67

5 Sumatra: The Other Side of Paradise 89

6 Too Smart for Us 108

7 The Little Schoolhouse in the Jungle 135

8 Music to Their Ears 157

9 The Heartfelt Man 179

10 Our Lady of the Forests 206

11 Requiem for an Ape 238

12 Fare Thee Well, Orangutan 259

References 270

For More Information 280

Acknowledgments 284

Index 287

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 16, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    An amazing book !!!

    I strongly recommend this amazing book to anyone wanting to know more about orangutans.

    As the title says, this book is stuffed with amazing intimate informations and details about orangutans, Borneo, Sumatra and the people close to them.
    Shawn takes us on a journey around the globe meeting amazing scientists, keepers, ordinary people extraodinary to orangutans and some rescued orangutans.
    Gary Shapiro raising Princess and teaching her sign language. Willie Smits regrowing the forest. Biruté Galdikas dedicating her whole life to Camp Leakey. Kusasi the dominant. The extraordinary keepers of the Chaffee Zoological Gardens...

    As I read Shawn's book I could learn and understand the world of orangutan conservation. Its complexity.
    The description of the relationship of Gary Shapiro and Princess is sublim. I think of Princess all the time now.

    The sad end is orangutans are disappearing extremely fast. Heartless people make them suffer for nothing but money and cruelty. Babies who should never leave their mothers become orphans because of pet trade and the palm oil industry. Forests are disappearing along with birds, reptiles, mammals...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 16, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    An amazing book !!!

    I strongly recommend this amazing book to anyone wanting to know more about orangutans.

    As the title says, this book is stuffed with amazing intimate informations and details about orangutans, Borneo, Sumatra and the people close to them.
    Shawn takes us on a journey around the globe meeting amazing scientists, keepers, ordinary people extraodinary to orangutans and some rescued orangutans.
    Gary Shapiro raising Princess and teaching her sign language. Willie Smits regrowing the forest. Biruté Galdikas dedicating her whole life to Camp Leakey. Kusasi the dominant. The extraordinary keepers of the Chaffee Zoological Gardens...

    As I read Shawn's book I could learn and understand the world of orangutan conservation. Its complexity.
    The description of the relationship of Gary Shapiro and Princess is sublim. I think of Princess all the time now.

    The sad end is orangutans are disappearing extremely fast. Heartless people make them suffer for nothing but money and cruelty. Babies who should never leave their mothers become orphans because of pet trade and the palm oil industry. Forests are disappearing along with birds, reptiles, mammals...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

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