Wednesday, 17 March 2010


The Intimate Ape by Shawn Thompson

The review copy of this book arrived shortly before I embarked on a two week journey to Malaysia and Indonesia, looking at various problems concerning orangutan conservation.

Conscious as I am, sales wise this book had to aim for the middle-market, being of a more cynical and critical nature myself, I found parts of the book rather tedious and irrelevant in the context of what is actually happening to orangutans.

To my mind the author spends far too much time on unimportant issues such as the ability of an orangutan to learn sign language. If orangutans were meant to communicate with us, I’m sure they would ask why the hell are they treated as badly as they are by so many, particularly the Indonesian and Malaysian governments, plus many zoos throughout the world who should, but won’t, hang their heads in shame.

I was also very unimpressed by the author’s action is taking into a jungle environment, a musician who was hell-bent on repeatedly playing his French horn with no regard for others who spend their life’s savings on visiting orangutans in the wild. Would you want to hear a blaring French horn whilst visiting a forest? To my mind this was selfish and idiotic.

On the plus side there are many interviews with noted and respected experts on orangutans. Learning more about these people and their personal views was definitely interesting. For this reason alone, the book is worth reading as it does give one a unique insight into these individuals. It is well written and if I was not immersed so deeply in orangutan issues I would probably see no wrong in this book. My personal views are clouded by the reality of what I often see happening to orangutans and the urgency needed to attempt to stop things from getting any worse.