Among the Great Apes by Paul Raffaele

| 2nd March 2010
Among the Great Apes
Exploring the lives and behaviour of our close ancestors and the threats they face, this book makes a compelling case for their protection

Among the Great Apes: Adventures on the trail of our closest relatives is a powerful account o the author's journey into our planet's last remaining gorilla communities. Based in some of the most volatile regions of the world, this book reveals the lives of our close ancestors, and explores their alarming future.

Raffaele's travels take him to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Cameroon and Northern Borneo. During his exploration, Raffaele speaks with leading conservationists and researchers from across the globe, such as Richard Leakey and Takiyoshi Kano who are working to save and learn from these communities while they still can.

The author and acclaimed nature journalist, whose previous titles include Among the Cannibals (which does what it says on the tin), gives a first-hand account of his experiences: being charged by silverback gorillas, threatened with rifles by rebel troops, witnessing bloody riots and of course, his interactions with the apes themselves.

Plagued by civil unrest and corrupt governments, Raffaele also explores the political and economic forces threatening both gorilla livelihoods and the environments that support them.

The book reveals the intricate personal, local and global relationships that underpin the history and future of primate populations. There are just 300 Cross River gorillas and 700 mountain gorillas left in the wild.

Animal behaviour

After reading this book, it is not difficult to understand why so many scientists are dedicated to protecting primates - and are so inquisitive about their behaviour and lifestyles.

Raffaele explores their personalities, endearing mannerisms and family dynamics, as well as exposing the shocking and heart-rending tales of tragedy. He describes orangutans fashioning umbrellas from long leaves, a young chimpanzee mothering a 'baby' log, and the bonobos' lively ritual of swinging like gymnasts through the treetops before building elaborate nests to sleep in.

He also elaborates on the overall character traits of primate sub species, such as the laid back nature of gorillas and the introspective and isolated ways of orangutans.

Though captivating for primate lovers, Among the Great Apes is not for everyone - its length alone (384 pages) means you have be committed to both the author and his cause. Still, this book tells the story of an inspiring journey, and makes a compelling and informative case for great apes' protection.

Among the Great Apes by Paul Raffaele (£17.25, Smithsonian Books)

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