Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A tale of two books

I haven’t written much in the blog lately. I write a lot at work, so I really need a motivating factor to sit down to the blog… Those motivations are usually when I see people disrespecting apes, or using apes for their own selfish gains, or when I am inspired by compassionate concern for apes. So when I learn of two new chimp books that are on the publishing horizon, I naturally wonder about the authors’ motivations.

 In his upcoming compassionate book about chimpanzees,
Halloran writes about Jo Mendi II and my dad.
In the first case, the author’s motivations are simple yet complex: this is the book he had to write. I am privileged to see Andrew Halloran’s first draft of Lion Shaped Mountain (working title), and it is filled with inspiring stories as well as heartbreaking histories of chimps and the people who used and abused them. He weaves his narratives between the past and the present, and I marvel at his perception. Most important to me, personally, are his insights as he briefly shares the story of my dad and Jo Mendi II, the Detroit zoo chimpanzee who meant the most to him. I hold my breath as I read it, and then I cry. And now I hope… I hope that readers will understand and learn from the all too real experience.

In the second case, the author’s motivation is exploitation and greed. Doc Antle, the self-serving charlatan who exploits his animals for profit (while masquerading as a conservationist), is once again publishing a book of photographs that add to the grotesquely darling perception of apes as cute human toys. Scheduled for release in November, just in time for Christmas sales, his upcoming attempt at manipulation is The Tiger Cubs and the Chimp, another in his series of anthropomorphous swindles, as he continues to con naive animal lovers into thinking that baby animals just adore being forced into unnatural situations for long photo shoots and book tours. I don’t know for sure, but the chimp featured in this book may be his third chimp infant from breeder Connie Casey.

So. We have two books, both of them sad in their own way. The first one is heartbreaking because it honestly relates the disgraceful way we have treated chimps in the past; the second one is wretched for the way it treats chimps today. We have one situation where the author is pouring his heart into his book, finding the words that will help people understand chimps as they are, as they are meant to be. We have another situation where the author is manipulating cute pics of baby tiger cubs and a chimp to promote his faux “preserve for endangered animals,” creating an illusion that fulfills our fantasies of how we want our animals to be.

I wonder which book is going to make the most sales. I’ll bet, sadly, it’s not the book that offers the reader a deeper examination of the complex issues and emotions that have harmed chimpanzees through the centuries. It won’t be the book that inspires “ah, I understand.” It will be the book that inspires “aw, ain’t that cute?!” And that is truly sad.


  1. Thanks for telling it like it is.I hope you will follow up on the Doc Antle story. And I would like to know the name of the "faux sanctuary" so I can be sure not to get suckered in to donating to it. I will not buy the book, so might not otherwise know.
    Joanne TAnner

  2. Doc's place is called T.I.G.E.R.S. Alan Green and the Center for Public Integrity provide the damning evidence against Antle in a great book, "Animal Underworld: Inside America's Black Market for Rare and Exotic Species." Everyone should read that book. It's available on Kindle.