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The Intimate Ape: Orangutans and the Secret Life of a Vanishing Species Paperback – February 23, 2010


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The Intimate Ape: Orangutans and the Secret Life of a Vanishing Species + Orangutans: Wizards of the Rain Forest + Reflections of Eden: My Years with the Orangutans of Borneo
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Citadel; 1 edition (February 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806531339
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806531335
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,100,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Journalist Thompson begins his introspective exploration of orangutans and the people who study and work with them with an expression of his own passion for these lesser-known apes. As he travels the rivers of Borneo on his way to the rain-forest home of the orangutan, he writes of those who have gone before, such as William Temple Hornaday, who shot orangutans for taxidermy as museum specimens even while he kept a young one as a pet. The author contrasts this early view of orangs with the dedication of such modern researchers as John MacKinnon, who was the first to spend long hours watching orangutans in the wild; Herman Rijksen, who began the process of rehabilitating formerly captive orangutans for re-release into their forest home; and perhaps the most famous, Biruté Galdikas, who made a commitment to the jungle and felt that she was born to study orangutans. This intimate look at a little-known ape will fascinate. --Nancy Bent

More About the Author

Shawn Thompson (1951- ) is a journalist, writer, photographer and university professor from Canada who has published about issues as diverse as existence aboard a navy submarine, life in federal prisons, and the plight of apes like orangutans as an endangered species. He teaches courses on communication in university and is dedicating his time outside the classroom to the challenge of expanding our humanity by improving our ethical involvement with the natural world. His next book will be about Jane Goodall and the morality of our relationship with the great apes. Thompson is a member of the board of the non-profit foundation Orang Utan Republik. He lives in the mountains of British Columbia.

Find video of orangutans by Shawn Thompson at IntimateApe on YouTube

Find photos by Shawn Thompson at IntimateApe on Flickr

Find Shawn Thompson's Twitter @IntimateApe

Customer Reviews

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See all 7 customer reviews
This book gives us those moments.
Dawn Forsythe
The relationship of Gary Shapiro and the orangutan Princess as described by Thompson becomes easy to enter.
Tanya L. Penick
Please read it for yourself and then recommend it to others if you enjoy it like me.
vanessa allen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Dawn Forsythe on March 6, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I strongly encourage anyone who wants to know more about the social life of orangutans - both wild and captive - to pick up this book. It is simply brilliant.

I've spent the last couple of years learning about these magnificent animals, and Shawn's insights -- garnered from conversations with a veritable "who's who" of orangutan researchers and caregivers -- are entertaining and enlightening. There are a lot of "aha!" moments in the book, and I feel like I am emotionally connecting to the individual orangutans. (Surely, Princess would sit down with me too???)... But just as intriguing are Shawn's insights into the scientists and zookeepers who have contributed so much to our knowledge and to the efforts to save orangutans from extinction. Reading Shawn, I finally have a glimmer of understanding about the jealousies and the disagreements that plague the world of orangutan conservation. He also lets us see the collaborations and sharing.

As if all of this wasn't enough, we are lucky that Shawn also has a wonderful writing style. At times poetic, and other times delightfully sardonic, Shawn's literary ability makes a terrific read all the more enjoyable.

Unfortunately, his knack for telling the truth leaves us with the possibility -- no, the probability -- that orangutans are heading for extinction unless (as has become increasingly unlikely) society does a 180 and takes drastic action to save Indonesian and Malaysian rainforests. No cheery "we are all working together to save the orangutans" for this book, and I'm glad to see it. We need to face reality, and Shawn helps the reader do that.

I've added "The Intimate Ape" to two other books -- "Thinkers of the Jungle" and "Wizards of the Rainforest" -- as "must read" books for anyone interested in orangutans or, indeed, in saying goodbye to them. "When you say good-bye, you think of the sweet moments," Shawn writes. This book gives us those moments.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By labfs39 on November 7, 2010
Format: Paperback
Disappointingly, this is not a book about orangutans, but a book about the people who study orangutans. The author, although passionate about his subject, is not a scientist or even a particularly good observer of apes on his travels. Instead, he travels the world to talk to the people who do or have in the past worked with apes, either in captivity or in the wild. The result is third person accounts of interactions with orangs or more broadly with the jungle itself. It's easy to see that the author admires these "do-ers", but does little himself, other than recount biographies and slip in little diatribes about human "savages" and the decline of the world as we know it. In addition, I felt that the author could have benefitted from more vigorous editing and a professional photographer.(I reviewed an advanced reading copy.)
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Format: Paperback
The orangutan is fast disappearing, its forests eaten up by our voracious appetite for land and timber. Only tens of thousands survive in the wild, and we are discovering the amazing intelligence of this great ape just as it seems poised on the verge of extinction. This is a remarkable book that not only looks at the orangutan but at the unusual individuals who have dedicated their lives to their study and protection - people like John MacKinnon, who "became part of the forests of Borneo and Sumatra... slept in the jungle and wrote about the hum of frogs and crickets". People like Willie Smits - the man who has regrown rainforest from nothing to house the orangutans he rescued. People like Birut' Galdikas, "our Lady of the Forests", who first brought reports to the world of the real nature of the orangutan. Thompson tracks them down, gets through the barriers, gets under their skins. Reading "The Intimate Ape" I felt that I knew people better, not just in the tragic destruction of the greedy, but also in the selfless and scientific devotion - the strengths and the weeknesses - of those that care about these close cousins of ours. Shawn Thompson keeps it personal, sharing his own reflections as he travels slowly upstream in Borneo, with illegally logged timber floating down past him. He takes a good photo too, and the book has a well-chosen selection. Highly recommended, of course, for anyone interested in really knowing more abut the work of saving the orangutan and its rich forests, but also for anyone who wants a well-written and insightful read about what is happening in an unwatched corner of our world.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Tanya L. Penick on March 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
Shawn Thompson has a winner on his hands. This recently released book was worth all of the time and travel spent preparing for it. The fact that Thompson took a period of years to collect his information, as well as his own personal thoughts, before writing is such a strong point. This wasn't a hurriedly done visit to the orangutans' habitat, a quick meeting/interview with some key people in orangutan conservation....no, it was a compilation of visits and talks and travels, and that is what provides the intimacy. If you are interested in orangutans and their survival, this is a book to put on your list. As Thompson travelled the muddy rivers through Indonesia in his klotok, he shares his personal thoughts, even shares his family with the reader. Thompson recalls interviews and discussions with key people involved in orangutan conservation...I felt like I was riding around with Thompson and Willie Smits, personally feeling the strong presence and unpredictability of Smits. And sitting on the dock at Tanjung Puting with Birute Galdikas, trying to figure out my own feelings about her as the two conversed at different times over the years. The conversations with Thompson and his subjects are so complex and thorough, you become a part of it. The relationship of Gary Shapiro and the orangutan Princess as described by Thompson becomes easy to enter. This is an extraordinary look at the red apes and the people committed to saving them. You feel as one with the orangutan. You feel as one with Thompson and his subjects. You feel as one with Thompson and his son and the man steering the klotok with his feet. How else could you describe or define intimacy? The orangutans have a new hero in their corner.
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