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

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

by Shawn Thompson, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
     
 

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Kusasi is a three-hundred-pound male who could rip your arms and legs off like daisy petals if he wanted. Princess was taught sign language by a researcher and had a limited ability to combine vocabulary. . ..

For centuries the shaggy red orangutan lived in peaceful seclusion in the jungles of Southeast Asia and kept the ancient secrets about its quiet,

Overview

Kusasi is a three-hundred-pound male who could rip your arms and legs off like daisy petals if he wanted. Princess was taught sign language by a researcher and had a limited ability to combine vocabulary. . ..

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 if its vanishing species.

"I went up a muddy brown river called the Sekonyer into the jungles of southern Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo, to see orangutans as they really are and to know them the way they deserve to be known. . ."

In The Intimate Ape, journalist Shawn Thompson brings together a global assemblage of primatologists, conservationists, and volunteers to reveal the intricate life of these majestic primates. As he travels through the steamy rainforests of Sumatra and the jungle river valleys 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.

"An extraordinary book that adds to our understanding of the animal world." --From the Foreword by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

After 17 years as a reporter, photographer, and editor at newspapers in Ontario, Shawn Thompson became a full-time assistant professor in the journalism department at Thompson Rivers University, in British Columbia, Canada. He has traveled the world to find orangutans and interview orangutan scientists, including trips to Sumatra and Borneo (the only places in the world where orangutans are found in the wild), Java, the Philippines, Australia, the Netherlands, and the United States. He lives in the small city of Kamloops, in the mountainous interior of British Columbia. This is his sixth book.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780806533926
Publisher:
Kensington
Publication date:
03/01/2010
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
File size:
2 MB

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