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Eating Apes

Eating Apes

Dale Peterson
With an Afterword and Photographs by Karl Ammann
Foreword by Janet K. Museveni
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 333
  • Book Info
    Eating Apes
    Book Description:

    Eating Apesis 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 exposé details how, with the unprecedented opening of African forests by European and Asian logging companies, the traditional consumption of wild animal meat in Central Africa has suddenly exploded in scope and 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 bush meat trade, today's rate of slaughter could bring about their extinction in the next few decades. Supported by compelling color photographs by award-winning photographer Karl Ammann,Eating Apesdocuments the when, where, how, and why of this rapidly accelerating disaster.Eating Apespersuasively argues that the American conservation media have failed to report the ongoing 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 one of the most disturbing threats to our closest relatives.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93842-7
    Subjects: Zoology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    Janet K. Museveni

    It is good to see the work of Dale Peterson and Karl Ammann, and I thank them both for thinking about the subject. For me, the significance of this book is that African children will be educated about the rich animal life in their God-given environment and will come to appreciate and value it. Ultimately, such an educated African generation will be the generation that will be committed to a meaningful conservation policy.

    It seems futile to me that the rest of the world should know and struggle to protect African wildlife while Africans themselves, the natural stewards of this...

    (pp. 1-2)

    PEOPLE HUNT AND EAT WILD ANIMALS FOR PROTEIN all over the globe: in the Americas, in Asia and Southeast Asia, essentially wherever there are pieces of wilderness with wild animals left in them. So there is nothing special about the fact that people living in and near forests of West and Central Africa happen to eat wild animal meat and probably have been doing so since human appetite began. But today, with the loss of traditional ways in Africa, with the arrival of modern weapons, modern population growth, and modern cities, and with the unprecedented opening of African forests by...

    (pp. 3-17)

    I first heard an ape laugh while walking in the great Taï Forest of Côte d’Ivoire, in West Africa. Primate researcher Christophe Boesch and I followed a group of wild chimpanzees as they moved on their daily circuit, a complex progression from food to food to food, from obscure fruits to tender herbs to hard nuts.

    The chimpanzees in this part of West Africa possess a stone and wood technology, striking hammers against anvils to crack otherwise uncrackable nuts. The hammers can be artificially rounded, quite heavy stones; the anvils may be flat stones with deeply worn pockets. Alternatively, the...

    (pp. 18-36)

    Karl Ammann’s most successful photographs seem artless, casual, and direct—snapshots nearly. Yet they simultaneously project themselves as icons, at once as bland as scattered laundry and as appalling as an apparition. The chainsaw slicing through the bottom of a tree that looms so huge it seems a forest in itself, the severed gorilla head collecting leaf litter and maggots on the forest floor, the downward-staring head in a kitchen dish beside a big fist of bananas, the chimpanzee arms being withdrawn from a logging truck’s yawning maw: Speaking with a minimalist vocabulary of color, shape, and composition, these two-dimensional...

  7. 3 DEATH
    (pp. 37-56)

    Joseph Melloh is a small, rather birdlike man, quick and smart with a sweet, gentle manner. He has a lean, triangular face and a quiet, very appealing directness.

    Joseph’s gun, what he calls his “business gun,” was a side-by-side double-barreled 12–gauge shotgun of French manufacture with two triggers, one for each barrel. It smelled faintly of oil and sweat. The barrel was scratched, the stock dull and worn, but the gun was still perfectly effective. Joseph never owned that item himself. He rented it from a civil servant in Batouri (eastern Cameroon), an employee of the Ministry of Housing,...

  8. 4 FLESH
    (pp. 57-79)

    Just across and down the street from the WWF offices* in Libreville, Gabon, you will find the bar and restaurant known as L’Odika, a seemingly prosperous establishment, open-sided but with a ceiling and ceiling fans, a wood floor, a mahogany and rattan bar, and decorative wood and soapstone carvings. There are tables and chairs enough to accommodate around thirty customers, and the soft background music and ambience along with the prices suggest that those customers will probably come from the European and African middle classes. Indeed, my dinner companion and I shared the place one warm Sunday evening with a...

  9. 5 BLOOD
    (pp. 80-103)

    In 1997, Karl heard rumors of an outbreak of disease among Pygmies living in a village in south-central Cameroon, thirty or forty kilometers past the town of Djoum, not far from the border with Gabon. He traveled there in a borrowed four-wheel-drive vehicle, accompanied by a health professional assigned to collect blood samples for the Pasteur Institute in Yaoundé.

    It was a modest village of perhaps fifty to one hundred people who sometimes hunted elephants. The villagers, carrying an elephant gun on loan from an important person two villages away, would walk south into Gabon, to a forest still inhabited...

  10. 6 BUSINESS
    (pp. 104-125)

    Joseph Melloh was born on June 15, 1964, near the village of Itoki in English-speaking southwestern Cameroon. His father was a farmer, growing on a three-or four-hectare patch of land mostly cocoa and coffee, thereby earning barely enough to support himself and his three wives and nine children. After completing primary school in 1976, Joseph asked his father to send him to secondary school, but his father refused. Angry, the young boy left home and migrated to the coastal city of Limbe, where he soon found employment as a houseboy for a Cameroonian woman, Mrs. Mpafe. She paid a small...

  11. 7 DENIAL
    (pp. 126-150)

    Karl Ammann was not the first to observe the act and fact of eating apes. He was not the first to note the emerging crisis caused by an explosive increase in hunting wild animals for meat in Central Africa. He was, however, among the first to understand the extent and the seriousness of its effect upon the apes themselves. He was first to document the fact, the crisis, the extent, and the effect photographically. And he was the first person to respond (in his speaking, his writing, and above all in his photographs) with a cry of moral outrage. Moral...

  12. 8 A STORY
    (pp. 151-182)

    By minor coincidence (since I had yet to meet him or hear of his existence), I happened to pass through Ouesso in 1993, about a year before Karl Ammann showed up on his first journey into that part of the world. Like Karl, I noted the big, bloody bags of meat leaving Ouesso on the national airlines flight to Brazzaville. Like Karl, I observed the battered old meat-laden truck pull into the Ouesso town square. But while Karl arrived in Ouesso as part of his early investigation into eating apes, soon to leave in a dugout canoe headed northeast up...

  13. Color plates
    (pp. None)
  14. 9 HISTORY
    (pp. 183-210)

    Joseph Melloh became a conservation investigator in northern Congo in the following way. Upon meeting him for the first time, in August 1995, Karl recognized Joseph as not only a person of energy and talent but, more importantly, a dissatisfied person of energy and talent. As I noted earlier, Joseph took up his hunting career entirely for economic reasons, and Karl realized that the Cameroonian might be persuaded to leave that particular line of work if someone could provide a reconciling economic alternative.

    Although Karl understood that the critical element was economic, he tended to argue with Joseph in philosophical...

    (pp. 211-230)
    Karl Ammann

    A few years ago, I was invited to visit the home of a Swiss compatriot, an elderly lady by the name of Martha (“Poppi”) Thomas living the life of the privileged in upstate New York. I knew that she was a trustee and a serious financial supporter of the Bronx Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society, and after lunch I showed her a copy of theSlaughter of the Apesbrochure that included some of my photos and a little explanatory text.

    Her reaction was more than shock. Her conservation world had just crumbled. Since she felt very strongly about...

  16. Appendix A. Saving the Apes
    (pp. 231-239)
  17. Appendix B. Further Reading
    (pp. 240-242)
  18. Appendix C. The Primate Family Tree
    (pp. 243-243)
  19. Appendix D. The HIV/SIV Family Tree
    (pp. 244-244)
  20. Maps
    (pp. 245-250)
  21. NOTES
    (pp. 251-284)
    (pp. 285-300)
    (pp. 301-304)
  24. INDEX
    (pp. 305-320)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 321-322)