The Wauchula Woods Accord: Toward a New Understanding of Animals

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WHILE TRAVELING AROUND THE COUNTRY to report on the conditions in which captive chimpanzees in America live, Charles Siebert visited a retirement home for former ape movie stars and circus entertainers in Wauchula, Florida, known as the Center for Great Apes. There Siebert encountered Roger, a twenty-eight-year-old former Ringling Bros. star who not only preferred the company of people to that of his fellow chimps but seemed utterly convinced that he knew the author from some other time and place.

"Mostly I was struck by Roger's stare," writes Siebert, "his deep-set hazel eyes peering out at me with what, to my deep discomfort, I'd soon realize is their unchanging expression. It is a beguiling mix of amazement and apprehension, the look, as I've often thought of it since, of a being stranded between his former self and the one we humans have long been suggesting to him. A sort of hybrid of a chimp and a person. A veritable 'humanzee.'"

Haunted by Roger's demeanor, Siebert promptly moved into a cottage on the grounds of the Center for Great Apes, spending day after day with Roger, trying to get to the bottom of the mysterious connection between them. And then late one night, awakened by the cries of chimpanzees, a sleepless and troubled Siebert suddenly began to conjure a secret, predawn encounter with his new cross-species confidant, an apparently one-sided conversation that, in fact, takes us to the very heart of the author's relationship with Roger and of our relationship with our own captive primal selves.

The result is The Wauchula Woods Accord, a strikingly written, wide-ranging physical and metaphysical foray out along the increasingly fraught frontier between humans and animals; a journey that encompasses many of the author's encounters with chimpanzees and other animals, as well as the latest scientific discoveries that underscore our intimate biological bonds not only with our nearest kin but with far more remoteseeming life-forms.

By journey's end, the reader arrives at a deeper understanding both of Roger and of our numerous other animal selves, a recognition -- an accord -- that carries a new sense of responsibility for how we view and treat all animals, including ourselves.
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About the author

Charles Siebert is the author of two memoirs and a novel. A poet, journalist, essayist, and contributing writer for The New York Times Sunday Magazine, his work has appeared in a broad array of publications, including The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The New Yorker, Harper’s, Vanity Fair, Outside, Esquire, and Men’s Journal.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Jun 9, 2009
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Pages
224
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ISBN
9781439165102
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Nature / Animals / Primates
Nature / General
Social Science / Anthropology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Charles Siebert
It was a story everyone heard and no one understood: nearly fifty lions, tigers, and bears shot dead by police one evening near a home in Zanesville, Ohio. The eccentric owner, Terry Thompson, had taken his own life, having first smeared his body with chicken blood and released some of the animals from their cages. When police arrived on the scene, his half-nude, dismembered corpse was being feasted upon by some of the tigers he had loved as "children." One year later, the full story of this tragedy is finally being told.

In "Rough Beasts," Charles Siebert shares the perspective of the animalsÕ caretaker, John Moore, who until now has remained silent about the incident. One of the first on the scene, Moore helplessly witnessed the deaths of nearly all of the animals he had helped rear, many of whom were friendly toward people and had been defanged and declawed. His testimony helps clarify some of the strange backstory that preceded that fateful night. Terry Thompson was a charismatic and obsessive Vietnam veteran, whose war record is now called into question by SiebertÕs investigation. How did his purchase of one lion cub for his beloved wife, Marian, lead to the creation of this largeÑand by all accounts chaotic and filthyÑmenagerie? Was it a testament to his renegade nature or a sign of mental illness? Why did he kill himself? Might his death have been staged, a conspiracy by the government to take away his "pets"?

SiebertÕs gripping tale also confronts the issue of exotic animal smugglingÑthe third most profitable trafficking trade in the world. With so many species in danger of extinction, are men like Thompson modern-day Noahs or misguided and dangerous zealots? Could someone have prevented the sinking of this leaking ark?

PRAISE FOR ÒROUGH BEASTSÓ

Charles Siebert's "Rough Beasts" is sad, moving and oftentimes terrifying, and his careful analysis tells us as much about what's exotic as it does about ourselves. ÑRobert Sullivan, author of "Rats" and "My American Revolution"

Marina Chapman
The unbelievable true story of a young girl who is abandoned in the Colombian jungle and finds asylum in the most unlikely of places—with a troop of capuchin monkeys​

In 1954, in a remote mountain village in South America, a little girl was abducted. She was four years old. Marina Chapman was stolen from her housing estate and then abandoned deep in the Colombian jungle. That she survived is a miracle. Two days later, half-drugged, terrified, and starving, she came upon a troop of capuchin monkeys. Acting entirely on instinct, she tried to do what they did: she ate what they ate and copied their actions, and little by little, learned to fend for herself.

So begins the story of her five years among the monkeys, during which time she gradually became feral; she lost the ability to speak, lost all inhibition, lost any real sense of being human, replacing the structure of human society with the social mores of her new simian family. But society was eventually to reclaim her. At age ten, she was discovered by a pair of hunters who took her to the lawless Colombian city of Cucuta where, in exchange for a parrot, they sold her to a brothel. When she learned that she was to be groomed for prostitution, she made her plans to escape. But her adventure wasn’t over yet . . .

In the vein of Slumdog Millionaire and City of God, this rousing story of a lost child who overcomes the dangers of the wild and the brutality of the streets to finally reclaim her life will astonish readers everywhere.
Ofir Drori
The true story of an adventurer-turned-warrior fighting poachers and traffickers to protect animals from extinction.

 Staging heart-pounding, espionage-style raids, Ofir Drori and his organization, The Last Great Ape (LAGA), have put countless poachers and traffickers of endangered species behind bars, and they have fought back against a Kafkaesque culture of corruption. Before Ofir arrived in Cameroon, no one had ever even tried.

The Last Great Ape follows a young Ofir on fantastical adventures as he crosses remote African lands by camel, on a horse, and in dug-out canoes, while living with exotic tribes and struggling against nature at its rawest: charging elephants and hyenas, flash floods, and the need to eat river algae and snails to stay alive. The story moves from places of extreme beauty to those of the darkest horror: the war zones of Sierra Leone and Liberia. Ofir begins to work as a photojournalist in order to expose his shocking encounter with war victims and child soldiers. His experiences forge in him a resolution to become an activist and to fight for justice.

The search for a cause eventually leads him to Cameroon. When Ofir discovers that no one is fighting to disprove Jane Goodall's dark prophesy that apes in the wild will be extinct in twenty years, he decides that he is the man to step in; because he knows he can make a difference, he sees it as his responsibility. And LAGA is born.

The Last Great Ape is a story of the fight against extinction and the tragedy of endangered worlds, not just of animals but of people struggling to hold onto their culture. This book reveals the intense beauty and strife that exist side by side in Africa, and Ofir makes the case that activism and dedication to a cause are still relevant in a cynical modern world. This dangerous and dramatic story is one of courage and hope and, most importantly, a search for meaning.
Charles Siebert
It was a story everyone heard and no one understood: nearly fifty lions, tigers, and bears shot dead by police one evening near a home in Zanesville, Ohio. The eccentric owner, Terry Thompson, had taken his own life, having first smeared his body with chicken blood and released some of the animals from their cages. When police arrived on the scene, his half-nude, dismembered corpse was being feasted upon by some of the tigers he had loved as "children." One year later, the full story of this tragedy is finally being told.

In "Rough Beasts," Charles Siebert shares the perspective of the animalsÕ caretaker, John Moore, who until now has remained silent about the incident. One of the first on the scene, Moore helplessly witnessed the deaths of nearly all of the animals he had helped rear, many of whom were friendly toward people and had been defanged and declawed. His testimony helps clarify some of the strange backstory that preceded that fateful night. Terry Thompson was a charismatic and obsessive Vietnam veteran, whose war record is now called into question by SiebertÕs investigation. How did his purchase of one lion cub for his beloved wife, Marian, lead to the creation of this largeÑand by all accounts chaotic and filthyÑmenagerie? Was it a testament to his renegade nature or a sign of mental illness? Why did he kill himself? Might his death have been staged, a conspiracy by the government to take away his "pets"?

SiebertÕs gripping tale also confronts the issue of exotic animal smugglingÑthe third most profitable trafficking trade in the world. With so many species in danger of extinction, are men like Thompson modern-day Noahs or misguided and dangerous zealots? Could someone have prevented the sinking of this leaking ark?

PRAISE FOR ÒROUGH BEASTSÓ

Charles Siebert's "Rough Beasts" is sad, moving and oftentimes terrifying, and his careful analysis tells us as much about what's exotic as it does about ourselves. ÑRobert Sullivan, author of "Rats" and "My American Revolution"

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