- Hardcover: 420 pages
- Publisher: William Morrow & Co; 1 edition (October 1, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 068814862X
- ISBN-13: 978-0688148621
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 83 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,773,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Next of Kin: What Chimpanzees Have Taught Me About Who We Are Hardcover – October 1, 1997
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For three decades, primatologist Roger Fouts has been involved in language studies of the chimpanzee, the animal most closely related to human beings. Among his subjects was the renowned Washoe, who was "endowed with a powerful need to learn and communicate," and who developed an extraordinary vocabulary in American Sign Language. Another chimpanzee, Fouts writes, "never made a grammatical error," which turned a whole school of linguistic theory upside down. While reporting these successes, Fouts also notes that chimpanzees are regularly abused in laboratory settings and that in the wild their number has fallen from 5,000,000 to fewer than 175,000 in the last century.
From Library Journal
In the early 1970s, Allen and Beatrix Gardner performed groundbreaking research in language by teaching American sign language (ASL) to a young female chimpanzee named Washoe. Hired to work with Washoe on this project was a budding psychologist named Roger Fouts. In this work, Fouts (psychology, Central Washington Univ.), codirector of the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute, unfolds a fascinating account of how Washoe and four other chimps learned to communicate with humans and with one another via ASL, shattering the concept put forth by Herbert S. Terrace in Nim (1979) that language was a defining barrier between humans and other animals. Fouts also breaks another barrier?declaring love for his research subjects, considering the chimps as his extended family. His actions to improve life for his chimpanzees, he notes, and promote humane treatment of all apes in captivity have adversely affected his professional career. Recommended for academic and public libraries.?Raymond Hamel, Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Ctr. Lib., Madison
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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I've always been a big animal lover, but reading this book taught me so many things that I never knew before. Anyone who questions an animal's ability to think or feel will get a sharp reality check after reading this book. Chimpanzees are people, too, just as much as human beings are. Unfortunately, the majority if humans in this world don't agree with that logic, and thousands of animals, including chimpanzees, are routinely kidnapped from their natural habitats and bred in captivity for the sole purpose of participating in biomedical research. In many cases, medical laboratories house animals in appalling conditions and literally torture them to death. "Next of Kin" details the horrors that go on behind closed doors at biomedical laboratories, and chronicles the steps Fouts and other animal activists have taken to protect chimpanzees from being treated inhumanely.
I absolutely loved this book. Reading it made me feel close to Washoe and her chimpanzee friends, even though I never met any of them before. (Sadly, Washoe passed away last fall at the age of 42, but I hope to visit members of her family at the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute in Washington someday.) Parts of this book are incredibly depressing and difficult to read, but hopefully learning about the terrible ways animals are treated will inspire people to take action. I admire everything that Fouts, his family, and his colleagues have done to protect chimpanzees, who are our next of kin on the great evolutionary scale. I hope other readers get as much out of this book as I did.
Please, I urge everyone to read this book. It will change you forever, for the good. With Chimpanzees in the wild being endangered species and with our government promising to Retire their chimpanzees who have been suffering in their medical labratories for decades — it is time for all us to better understand our Next Of Kin.
Today, Tatu and Loulis are the last surviving chimpanzees from the language studies programs. They reside happily in Sanctuary at the Fauna Foundation (http://www.faunafoundation.org).
The story follow Roger Fouts' career, from a young graduate student, to a world authority on chimpanzee communication and behavior. Where Jane Goodall got to observe wild chimps in Gombe, and study their natural lives, Fouts works with "domestic" chimps, with the goal of teaching them sign language, and studying how they learn and use it.
The books is very entertaining and very engaging, and at times, heart breaking. It described the plight of chimps used in medical research, how these intelligent, sentient creatures spend their whole lives, which can be decades, in small cages with no contact with their own kind, and no mental stimulation.
Through his career are trials and troubles, but Fouts always tries his best to overcome them, while keeping his chimpanzee charges interests in mind. Unfortunately, this leads him to be forced to choose between his chimp friends, and his fellow scientific peers.
The most touching part was his reunion after a 13 year separation with his friend Booee, who remembered him, and remembered his signs, though he presumably hadn't used them in so long. Booee was taken away from him, and used in a biomedical lab, where he was injected with Hepatitis.
An interesting point is made in regards to humans using animals for tests, and that is that we seek to dehumanize that which we don't fully understand. Humans have used humans for slaves, Nazis used Jews for medical experiments, and up until the 1970s the US government was running a syphilis study on unknowing black men. All of this is condemned now, and is unthinkable in today's world, but as we move from one thing, we replace it with another, and it seems that we've moved to chimps now.
I believe in the future we'll look back and not be able to imagine how we imprisoned and experimented on our evolutionary cousins. I just hope that day isn't too far off.
The book ultimately ends on a fairly happy note, but the separations are agonizing to read about, and I found my eyes welling with tears on more than one occasion. Despite that (because of that?) this book is one of my favorites in my library, and I highly suggest it.