BOOK REVIEW: The Chimpanzee Whisperer by Stany Nyandwi w/ David Blissett

I Am Stany: The Life and Loves of a Chimpanzee WhispererI Am Stany: The Life and Loves of a Chimpanzee Whisperer by Stany Nyandwi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazon.in Page

Out: February 22, 2022

These are the memoirs of a man who made a career from his ability to read and interact with chimpanzees. However, lest one expect a Gerald Durrell-style book filled with amusing animal anecdotes and witty lessons on how to build a zoo, one should note that Stany Nyandwi faced poverty and many a tragedy in his life that make this animal-interest book also a human-interest story from cover to cover. [Note: There are many chimpanzee stories and insights into how sanctuaries and reserves are run, but they are interspersed with visceral tales of calamity and sorrow.]

The book tells of Stany’s youth in Burundi, a country that would fall into a vicious civil war as he came of age and then got the first job that might pull him out of brutal poverty (into regular poverty,) working as a laborer at a chimpanzee sanctuary. It wasn’t long before the sanctuary had to be shut down because of the dangers of the war between Tutsis and Hutus. Because his work ethic and talent with chimps had begun to show, he was offered jobs first in Kenya and then in Uganda. Traveling with the sanctuary chimps would separate him from his family (a wife and children, not to mention his parents and siblings) during the worst years of the war, leading him down a self-destructive path for a time, but then things seem to improve. Always when one thinks his life is settling into a healthy stability, there’s a spanner into the works. Yet, the author keeps finding the bright side, and being saved by that positivity and his gift for working with chimpanzees, a gift which makes him a man in demand despite his lack of education or resources.

This book is an emotional roller-coaster ride, but throughout we are saved by the author’s indefatigable positivity and humanity – perhaps, the traits that allowed him to get along so well with the chimpanzees. I’d highly recommend it for all readers.


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DAILY PHOTO: Chimpanzee Standing Watch

Taken on October 3, 2014 in the Mysore Zoo.

Taken on October 3, 2014 in the Mysore Zoo.

TODAY’S RANT: Viral Video Advertising

I recently saw this posted on Facebook. I, being a doofus, believed I had stumbled upon the black box recording that would show archaeologists the moment it all went sour for the human race– the dawn of the rise of the apes. As soon as our self-aware brethren learn to take our technology and use it against us, we are surely doomed. Being damned dirty, the apes will own humans. [Participle dangle intended.]

Of course, I felt compelled to do a Snopes check because– believe it or not– sometimes people put things on the internet which are fake. I know, I know, hard to believe.

It turns out the video is a piece of viral advertising for the next Planet of the Apes movie. “Lesser” primate use of technology is still about right here:

Viral advertising is the latest craze. One leaks intriguing footage onto YouTube and doesn’t label it or say what it is.  Then you hope a bunch of schmucks fall for it, and they will– because that’s the defining characteristic of we schmucks. It’s tautological.  This kind of video will stick in one’s mind and get more media attention than would a regular trailer.

The problem is that movie-makers have the ability to make really convincing fakes. (That’s what they do.) My well-read reader will certainly have heard of the Orson Welles War of the Worlds incident. People who didn’t hear the beginning of the broadcast, which was formatted like a news bulletin, freaked out about the alien invasion. Some people jumped out windows (why, I have no idea. I don’t think they thought the value of that through.) Some people fled to Canada (assuming, of course, that the aliens wouldn’t be interested in that icy wasteland.)

My problem with all this isn’t that people are duped; it’s the “boy who cried wolf” effect. One day when we’re under attack by aliens, apes, or artificial intelligence, people are going to be like, “Dude, that’s a really convincing looking ray-gun… NOT!”