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Peterson, Dale. Eating Apes.

Eating Apes 0520230906
Eating Apes
Peterson, Dale
California Studies in Food and Culture, No. 6
Museveni, Janet K. (First Lady of Uganda)
Ammann, Karl
University of California Press, Berkeley
0520230906 (Hardcover)
Ammann, Karl (color photographs); (black and white diagrams and distribution maps)
Table of Contents
Foreword, by Janet K. Museveni ix
Introduction 1
Laughter 3
Beginnings 18
Death 37
Flesh 57
Blood 80
Business 104
Denial 126
A Story 151
History 183
Afterword, by Karl Ammann 211
Appendix A. Saving the Apes 231
Appendix B. Further Reading 240
Appendix C. The Primate Family Tree 243
Appendix D. The HIV/SIV Family Tree 244
Maps 245
Notes 251
Bibliography 285
Acknowledgements 301
Index 305
Color plates follow page 158
Further Reading (3 pages); Bibliography (16 pages)
Index (16 pages)
apes, food, culture, society, politics, outdoors, nature, business, economics, meat, bushmeat, conservation, wildlife, natural resources, fauna, environment, environmental science, chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, animals, industry, logging, Central Africa, HIV, AIDS, Ebola virus, biology
English (en)
From the Dust Jacket
Eating Apes is an eloquent book about a disturbing secret: the looming extinction of humanity's closest relatives, the African great apes—chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas. Dale Peterson's impassioned exposť details how, with the unprecedented opening of forests by Euopean and Asian logging companies, the traditional consumption of wild animal meat in Central Africa has suddenly exploded in cope an impact, moving from what was recently a subsistence activity to an enormous and completely unsustainable commercial enterprise. Although the three African great apes account for only about one percent of the commercial bushmeat trade, today's rate of slaughter could bring about their extinction within the next few decades. Supported by compelling color photographs by award-winning Karl Ammann, Eating Apes documents the when, where, how, and why of this rapidly accelerating disaster.
Eating Apes persuasively argues that the American conservation media have failed to report the collapse of the ape population. In bringing the facts of this crisis and these impending extinctions into a single, accessible book, Peterson takes us one step closer to averting this grave threat to our closest relatives.
My Summary
The series this book belongs to (California Studies in Food and Culture) and its publisher (the University of California) are misleading. Although Eating Apes indeed deals in detail with the role of using chimps, bonobos and gorillas as food in Africa's culture, its overwhelming main theme is their conservation. In addition it is far from being a scientific study. The author admits that his evidence is nearly all anecdotal (comes from observation rather than studies) and argues that we do not need biologists delivering statistics on the apes but rather that we need to concentrate on solving the problem. A biologist myself, I was slightly offended, but I agree with Peterson. However, better-researched facts would lend more credibility to his arguments.
One example I noticed does not come from the realm of biology but rather from cultural studies. Trying to illustrate that Africans use the same word for both animal and meat, he states: "In Nigerian Hausa, the word nama likewise means at once meat and wild animal; and the same dual signification is true, to the east, for nyama in the great trading language of Swahili, as well as to the south and across a large portion of the Congo Basin, for the very similar word eyama in Lingala." Although I cannot speak for Hausa and Lingala, this is not exactly true for Swahili. Nyama only means meat while the word for wild animal is mnyama. The prefix m- is used for living beings, so the literal meaning of mnyama is living meat. If he had stated it this way, it would actually have strengthened his case, but by making a technically false statement, we are not sure how well researched the rest of his statements are.
A large part of Peterson's narrative deals with photographer Karl Ammann's struggles to make the imminent extinction of Africa's apes receive the international priority it deserves. He relates why African, European and American politicians and international conservation organizations will not touch the issue. This may explain why the book appears in a seemingly unfitting university press series; it might not otherwise have been published. In light of the great resistance to acknowledging the problem, the University of California Press, Dale Peterson and Karl Ammann must be commended for it. When I last checked, the book was doing well according to its sales rank, so the goal of bringing the problem to the public's mind seems to have been achieved.
While reading the book I wish I had known two things before I got to the end: first that there are several maps of the many places mentioned and second that the proposed solutions to the myriad complex problems mentioned would not appear till Appendix A—after the afterword! In fact one should not think the book is finished when the afterword starts: a full third of the book consists of end material. Besides the afterword and Appendix A, which are chapter length, there are a short list of extended reading, diagrams and maps. In addition there is an extremely extensive notes section, where even more information is presented, that was no doubt considered too much for the main text but included for the interested reader (I was one). Then there are the extensive bibliography to which the notes refer, the acknowledgements and a very thorough index.
Jane Goodall is quoted on the front dust jacket: "The African Great Apes, our closest living relatives, are in imminent danger of extinction. Eating Apes, in beautiful prose, exposes the enormity and complexity of this conservation crisis. It took great courage to gather and present this information. You must read this book." Peterson also thanks Goodall in his acknowledgements. This is slightly ironic because he criticizes her and her conservation organization, along with other international conservation organizations including the WWF, for their surrendering to the logging companies in their role as the main cause of the explosive growth of the bushmeat problem.
To learn why and to see how the Ebola virus, HIV, and AIDS are also implicated, I highly recommend this book.
Robbin D. Knapp © 2003
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