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The Wauchula Woods Accord: Toward a New Understanding of Animals Hardcover – June 9, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

While visiting a primate sanctuary for a story on captive chimpanzees, Siebert (Wickerby: An Urban Pastoral) encounters Roger, a chimpanzee formerly used in the entertainment industry, who seems to remember him. In one transformative night, Siebert sits up until dawn with Roger, repairing their apparently severed bond, pondering the meaning of humanity's relationship to nonhuman animals, and recounting some of the ugly history of exotic animals killed, captured, bred, and abused by humans in the name of entertainment and research. While Roger seems to find healing in the interaction, the human finds metaphysical escape. Seeing in Roger reflections of himself, Siebert concludes that a self-centered humanity may stop abusing nonhumans if we perceive them to be part of ourselves. While his musings occasionally come across as self-absorbed, Siebert's writing is fresh and evocative, and his sensitive and sustained attention to Roger is moving. Given the popularity of human/animal friendship stories, this book will likely be of interest to readers in both public and academic libraries.—Leslie J. Patterson, Chicago P.L.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

While writing a story about chimps for the New York Times Magazine, Siebert was visiting sanctuaries established for former ape actors and research animals when he came to a facility in Wauchula, Florida. As soon as chimpanzee Roger saw him, he stood up and gave three loud, slow claps, causing the caregivers to comment on the immediate recognition. Siebert asked to stay and visit with Roger, wondering at this connection with an animal he’d never met, and the result is this elegiac meditation on the bond between human and ape, centered on one night that the author spent with Roger as he and the chimp sit and commune through looks and body language. This leads the author delving into our treatment of nonhuman animals and finding the connection that he and Roger both sought. --Nancy Bent

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (June 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743295862
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743295864
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,059,336 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Gerry L on August 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I like history, but I've never much cared for historical fiction. Life's too short to waste time trying to figure out what parts of a book are fact and what parts are made up. And that's where I have a problem with The Wauchula Woods Accord. It falls into a fuzzy category that you might call fictiony non-fiction. Or maybe non-fictiony fiction.

Like Charles Siebert, I have spent a lot of time at the Center for Great Apes, where I have volunteered for several years. So when I learned of this book, I felt compelled to read it. I could understand how he felt a connection with a chimp, Roger. But I was confused when I read Siebert's account of walking across the grounds of the Center in the middle of the night and slipping into Roger's nighthouse. I know that the holding areas are all carefully locked in the evenings and that all locks are double checked. Then I learned from the director of the Center for Great Apes that Siebert told her he was using "a certain amount of creative license" and that some events were "fictionalized for dramatic effect" (in Siebert's own words from a hand-written note).

OK. The author is using the fantasy of a night spent with Roger as a literary structure on which to build this story about chimps in captivity. There is a vague warning on the copyright page of the book stating that " such as the night-time visit and physical contact with Roger have been compressed, reordered, or embellished," but nowhere does Siebert actually tell the reader that his night with Roger is all in his imagination.

Further into the book, I discovered more factual problems. On page 162, he describes an experience in the primate house at the zoo in Portland, Oregon, that supposedly took place in 1979.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Sniffen on July 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I have admired many of Charles Siebert's work over the past 10 years or so, from his essays in The New York Times to his other published works. And though I fell in love with his poetic memoir titled Wickerby, his latest work is by far, his craftiest storytelling yet. Siebert has managed to take a roughly two hour secretive encounter with a retired chimpanzee performer, who is nestled in an actual chimpanzee retirement community, and poses deep philosophical and scientific questions about the connection between the two of them, all the while trying to determine why Roger, the chimpanzee's name, seems to think he knows him from some past experience he had. Siebert weaves his past experiences with human-animal encounters along with the latest scientific data and historic accounts of human-animal interactions to help him and the reader discover some answers to the questions that just might lead us to a better understanding of animals, and ourselves. Bravo!
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Michael W. Silverbush on July 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book after having enjoyed Mr. Siebert's work in the NY Times Magazine. I think it is a fascinating and entertaining look into the author's mind, and the thinking process of higher life forms. Mr. Siebert has a real page turner here. While attempting to study the world of retired chimps, he manages to examine not only the ape's mind but that of their keepers,& the society that put them in "retirement" homes. It delves into many environmental and sociological issues, but these themes were woven in so seamlessly, that the book was hard to put down. I enjoyed it immensely and appreciate that one does not have to be a scientist to follow along on this fascinating trip!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Hawkman on January 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Enthralling. Disturbing. Up-lifting.

Yes, somehow author Charles Siebert manages a hat trick.

The central narrative in the book The Wauchula Woods Accord, is the surprising connection, i.e. relationship that spontaneously happens between the author and Roger, a "humanzee": a chimpanzee that has spent his entire life living with humans, now being forced to retire in the company of other chimps. Roger must somehow find his inner chimp relinquishing his humanity. But is that even possible? Can his human/chimp psyche even be stretched that far? Isn't it too much to ask of him emotionally? And just where is the line between humanity and "chimpanity"?

Even though Roger's great ape retirement village is idyllic, he sits alone, plagued by insomnia, self-isolated from the other members of his species.

As the book progresses, Siebert dismantles the notion of anthropomorphism: the projection of human behaviors and emotions onto animals. He writes about other very "human-like" qualities found in mammals--great apes, elephants, whales, dolphins--completely dispelling the myth that only people have personalities, emotions, remembrances.

Siebert writes, "And yet it makes no difference any longer that we can't, as the standard warning against anthropomorphizing goes, possibly know what Roger is thinking. Or what a Roger day is like, or a whale's, or an elephant's, or a parrot's.

"That is one of the peculiar things about this moment we've arrived at with the animals. We've come to know enough now about the shared biological underpinnings of so many of those brains in Dr.
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