The Last Great Ape: A Journey Through Africa and a Fight for the Heart of the Continent

Overview

An epic journey through Africa by a man who fell in love with a magical and disappearing world and then transformed himself into a warrior on the frontline to protect it.

Staging heart-pounding, espionage-style raids, Ofir Drori and his organization, The Last Great Ape (LAGA), have put countless poachers and traffickers of endangered species behind bars, and they have fought back against a Kafkaesque culture of corruption. Before Ofir arrived ...

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The Last Great Ape: A Journey Through Africa and a Fight for the Heart of the Continent

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Overview

An epic journey through Africa by a man who fell in love with a magical and disappearing world and then transformed himself into a warrior on the frontline to protect it.

Staging heart-pounding, espionage-style raids, Ofir Drori and his organization, The Last Great Ape (LAGA), have put countless poachers and traffickers of endangered species behind bars, and they have fought back against a Kafkaesque culture of corruption. Before Ofir arrived in Cameroon, no one had ever even tried.

The Last Great Ape follows a young Ofir on fantastical adventures as he crosses remote African lands by camel, on a horse, and in dug-out canoes, while living with exotic tribes and struggling against nature at its rawest: charging elephants and hyenas, flash floods, and the need to eat river algae and snails to stay alive. The story moves from places of extreme beauty to those of the darkest horror: the war zones of Sierra Leone and Liberia. Ofir begins to work as a photojournalist in order to expose his shocking encounter with war victims and child soldiers. His experiences forge in him a resolution to become an activist and to fight for justice.

The search for a cause eventually leads him to Cameroon. When Ofir discovers that no one is fighting to disprove Jane Goodall's dark prophesy that apes in the wild will be extinct in twenty years, he decides that he is the man to step in; because he knows he can make a difference, he sees it as his responsibility. And LAGA is born.

The Last Great Ape is a story of the fight against extinction and the tragedy of endangered worlds, not just of animals but of people struggling to hold onto their culture. This book reveals the intense beauty and strife that exist side by side in Africa, and Ofir makes the case that activism and dedication to a cause are still relevant in a cynical modern world. This dangerous and dramatic story is one of courage and hope and, most importantly, a search for meaning.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
“Nearly from the time I could talk, I’d planned to travel to Africa, a place as different as I wanted to think I was,” writes Drori in his call-to-action memoir. The book opens where it will eventually end, with an arrest of African poachers made possible by Drori’s NGO, the Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA). Most of the book, however, relates Drori’s love affair with Africa, starting with a trip to Kenya in 1994. A former Israeli army officer, Drori lives at the edge of death. Fearless, his search for adventure in Africa verges on recklessness: he travels solo without enough food or water, arrives in dangerous cities on the verge of revolution, and barely escapes a bus accident in Nigeria. Initially drawn to his charisma, some friends and lovers ultimately reject him for his intensity. But he is a man in search of a cause and he finds it in Future, a chimp he saves from being sold as bushmeat. Skillful storytelling saves the book from being a marketing piece for LAGA and its founder, though readers who share Drori’s affection for Africa or his passionate animal activism will not be disappointed. Agent: Melissa Chinchillo, Fletcher & Co. (June)
BBC News
“Ofir Drori is a man on a mission. LAGA has made a difference and shows no sign of stopping.”
Conservation Magazine
“Intense and uncompromising. LAGA’s success has galvanized groups around the world. Ivory dealers now warn one another of ‘this dangerous man in black.’”
Library Journal
The Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA) is the brainchild of Drori, a young Israeli photojournalist and animal activist who overcame almost insurmountable odds to establish a volunteer group in Cameroon to enforce the country's laws against the killing of and trade in endangered species. With friend and writer McDannald, he describes experiences from rescuing baby gorillas to stumbling upon huge stockpiles of illegal ivory, as well as LAGA's undercover investigations that involve not only shutting down local markets that sell bush meat but arresting the "big people" in the endangered-species trade. Most of Drori's memoir concerns his arduous solo treks in remote regions of Africa (prior to setting up LAGA), during the course of which he developed a deep spiritual bond with and fearless trust in the landscape and its wildlife. VERDICT LAGA is an outstanding accomplishment in animal activism, and its operations vividly highlight the multifaceted nature of endangered-species protection, particularly the challenge of prosecuting violators of wildlife laws in legal systems with rampant corruption. Anyone concerned about the fate of endangered species will be inspired to learn that one individual's courage, determination, and vision can make a difference. Strongly recommended for readers who enjoy Jane Goodall's books.—Cynthia Knight, Hunterdon Cty. Lib., Flemington, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
Israeli-born activist and writer Drori describes his love affair with Africa and his efforts to enforce wildlife laws there. In 2003, the author created the Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA), which works to prosecute violators of Cameroon's wildlife laws protecting apes, elephants and other endangered species. Inspired by Jane Goodall's prediction that the great apes will soon be extinct, Drori observed that the main factor driving gorillas toward extinction was not subsistence hunting or habitat loss, but rather the widespread illegal commercial trading in live apes and bush meat. By winning the support of wildlife officials, police and the courts, LAGA has helped arrest and prosecute major criminals. Many readers will be disappointed by the relatively short shrift given to LAGA's important work, which involves mapping the flow of ivory and endangered species along African trade routes and staging dangerous stings on poachers and dealers. Drori devotes most of the book to his personal quest for adventure and meaning in Africa, where he traveled widely after serving in the Israeli military. Sometimes reckless, always pushing himself, he faced many dangerous moments but also came to appreciate the people and natural riches of the continent. An encounter with a captive chimp convinced him of the need to act against "an old system" of corruption, beginning with the fight to save animals. There is no denying the author's passion for Africa's wildlife, his hatred of corruption, and his conviction that anyone can help foster change through individual action, but most of the narrative is unfocused and meandering.
BBC News
“Ofir Drori is a man on a mission. LAGA has made a difference and shows no sign of stopping.”
Conservation Magazine
“Intense and uncompromising. LAGA’s success has galvanized groups around the world. Ivory dealers now warn one another of ‘this dangerous man in black.'”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781605983271
  • Publisher: Pegasus
  • Publication date: 4/1/2012
  • Pages: 282
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Ofir Drori is an Israeli activist based in Central Africa. A former army officer, educator, journalist, photographer, and adventurer, he has spent the past decades in two dozen different African countries. He founded LAGA in 2003 and leads various efforts against corruption for conservation, democracy, and the rule of law.

David McDannald is an American writer, who lives on a ranch in the West Texas mountains. He splits his time between caring for the cattle herd and traveling in Africa and South America. He has published fiction and nonfiction in various magazines and journals. He and Ofir met in Kenya in 2000 and they became best friends.

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