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Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo Hardcover – May 27, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Devoted to learning more about bonobos, a smaller, more peaceable species of primate than chimpanzees, and lesser known, Australian journalist Woods and her fiancé, scientist Brian Hare, conducted research in the bonobos' only known habitat—civil war–torn Congo. Woods's plainspoken, unadorned account traces the couple's work at Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary, located outside Kinshasa in the 75-acre forested grounds of what was once Congo dictator Mobutu Sese Seko's weekend retreat. The sanctuary, founded in 1994 and run by French activist Claudine André, served as an orphanage for baby bonobos, left for dead after their parents had been hunted for bush meat; the sanctuary healed and nurtured them (assigning each a human caretaker called a mama), with the aim of reintroducing the animals to the wild. Hare had only previously conducted research on the more warlike, male-dominated chimpanzee, and needed Woods because she spoke French and won the animals' trust; through their daily work, the couple witnessed with astonishment how the matriarchal bonobo society cooperated nicely using frequent sex, and could even inspire human behavior. When Woods describes her daily interaction with the bonobos, her account takes on a warm charm. Woods's personable, accessible work about bonobos elucidates the marvelous intelligence and tolerance of this gentle cousin to humans. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Woods was an Australian primate lover, flitting from job to job while she tried to decide what to do with her life. Brian Hare was a newly minted American PhD. They met at a chimpanzee sanctuary in Uganda, fell in love, and a year later were on a plane to the Democratic Republic of Congo, which had suffered a decade-long war, fought over its vast resources of diamonds, gold, cobalt, and other minerals, and in which more than five million died. The human suffering had fostered a rise in the bush-meat trade, and one of the prime targets was bonobos, the “other” chimpanzee. The story of Woods’ and Hare’s research at the only bonobo sanctuary in the world mixes the intimacy of memoir with the science of behavioral research. As Woods comes to know her new husband, she also begins to know the resident bonobos. Bonobos share, use sex to settle arguments, and possess almost 99 percent of our DNA. This mostly joyous book is not afraid to talk about the terrible recent history of the Congo, but ultimately it comes down on the side of hope—for the Congo and the bonobos. --Nancy Bent
Top customer reviews
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I go bananas for apes, so it's no surprise that I fell in love with this book! Woods stumbles into the world of Bonobos accidently when she meets her husband, Brian. Bonobos live in the the shadow of their close cousins, the chimpanzees, and can only be found in the jungles of Congo. Their peaceful and accepting way of life is worthy of emmulation, especially in a country where violence, war and death are a way of life.
"LOLA YA BONOBO is the only bonobo sanctuary in the world. More than sixty orphans live in a seventy-five-acre forest just outside of Kinshasa...All ape sanctuaries, including Lola, exist because of the bushmeat trade. In many African countries, where livestock is scarce and expensive, the easiest way to get protein is to shoot it."
While Woods assists her husband with his psychology study and tests of the Bonobos at LOLA, she finds herself immersed in the stories of the sanctuary staff, the adult Bonobos, and the orphans that keep streaming in after being rescued from wildlife traders. It's a heartbreaking read at times, but I loved how Woods made the story as light-hearted as she could. She invites the reader into her marriage and heart, and I am so grateful for the awareness that this book raises about the plight of this loving primate. I feel motivated to get my ape on once again. I'll have to scour my shelves for another book about apes because their world is one I love to lose myself in!
I'm just starting "A Promise at Bluebell Hill", Monica and Travis' adventure and look forward to many more Valentine Valley books! Seems to me this would be a perfect place to enjoy life and it's simplicities.