'I need to see the Orangutans!' The entire time I was reading this book, I couldn't help thinking about the story my mother tells of taking her then 2 or 3-year-old nephew to the zoo, where his constant refrain was 'I need to see the Orangutans!' It's a sentiment many of the people featured in The Intimate Ape would certainly understand.
Shawn Thompson has created a beautiful book that's not just about Orangutans, but about humanity as well. As he visits zoos, rescue centers and orangutan experts he begins to realize how much we can learn about ourselves by observing Orangutans. Each of his experts has their own ideas of the best way to interact with and rehabilitate Orangutans, but the passion of each for what they are doing the species they have chosen to focus on is evident.
The book itself is not told chronologically. Although Thompson begins by talking about his first trip to Borneo, he jumps around in time quickly and often, which was a bit jarring at first. I soon got used to the lack of a discernible timeline as the stories Thompson told took hold of me.
Each chapter has a theme; culture, gender and conservation to name a few, and in general each chapter focuses the interviews and time spent with one or two Orangutan experts. Thompson's research was thorough and its obvious that it quickly became more than just a book to him.
The book itself is well written, I never found myself bored and I read it in one day. I found myself alternately laughing and crying as I read about the lives and antics of these amazing creatures. The main message of the book came out loud and clear, Orangutans are disappearing and to see them gone would truly be a tragedy. Conservation is key and in the resources appendix, Thompson gives us some ideas of how to help.
'I need to see the Orangutans!' Don't we all.
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