Saturday, January 23, 2010

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

'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.


  1. Sounds like a good read. I always appreciate stories of animal lovers, as you well know!

    Peace and Laughter,

  2. I think you'd be particularly interested in the chapter about Education JP!

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


About Me

My photo
I'm human, so I've got some issues, but all things considered I guess I'm reasonably normal. My parents are still married. My best friends are my sisters...okay, so I'm normal for the 1850's whatever. I'm opinionated and nerdy. I'm walking the line between tweener-style pop culture love (witness my ever-burning New Kids love and inexplicable Twilight obsession) and elitist culture snob (I can't seem to get enough 19th century British Lit and historical biographies) but, after 30 years, I'm finally learning not to give a crap what anyone else thinks about me. Oh, and those are my feet in the picture. The socks were made by a friend.

Site Meter