James L. Newman brings a lifetime of study to this powerful exploration of the rich and varied interaction between gorillas and humans since earliest contact. Tragically, most free-living gorillas-facing habitat loss, disease, and poaching-are now endangered. At the same time, those in zoos and sanctuaries now lead much more secure lives. Following this transition through time, Newman highlights the roles played by key individuals, both humans and gorillas. Among the former have been adventurers, opportunists, writers, and scientists. The latter include real gorillas, such as Gargantua and Koko, and fictional ones, notably King Kong and Mighty Joe Young. This compelling book helps us understand how our image of gorillas has been both distorted and clarified through culture and science for centuries and how we now control the destiny of these magnificent great apes.
Chapter 1: Introducing Gorillas
Chapter 2: First Encounters
Chapter 3: Hunting Gorillas
Chapter 4: In Search of Mountain Gorillas
Chapter 5: Knowledge Comes to the Rescue
Chapter 6: Famous Gorillas
Chapter 7: The Future of the Gentle Giants
James L. Newman is professor emeritus of geography at the Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
"[...] This sometimes heartbreaking exploration will be of keen interest to any reader concerned with the effects of human development on the ecology of the African continent and its gorillas."
– Library Journal
"Newman has compiled a thorough history of our interactions with gorillas from the jungle to the cage. Beginning with 19th century sightings that perpetuated more myth than fact, Newman documents the early attempts to capture them which usually ended tragically as they succumbed to human viruses and faulty diets. By the 20th century researchers like George B. Schaller and Dian Fossey contribute valuable insights on the creature's habits in its natural environment, work that eventually leads to protecting the species in the wild as well as improving their conditions in zoos. A chapter on "famous gorillas" is [especially] entertaining as Newman details the lives of caged gorillas, such as Binti Jua, the gorilla who saved the life of a three-year-old boy after he fell into its habitat."
– Publishers Weekly
"Africa has been a backdrop for the author's previous research, but this latest work diverges from his human-environmental explorations and instead examines human-animal interactions, namely with the gorilla. Neither a conservationist nor a primatologist, Newman adds to this body of literature in a unique manner – from the viewpoint of a geographer. This perspective allows for history and culture to blend seamlessly in his analysis. He offers a holistic understanding of humans and gorillas as he chronicles interactions from very early discoveries of the species through cultivated myths and resulting consequences. He also includes chapters on famous researchers and gorillas that have become well known to the public. The book concludes with the status of gorillas today, where their continued survival relies heavily on zoos and conservation parks. Each chapter is easily accessible to a wide audience, ranging from novices to experts, and the book is thoroughly referenced for readers seeking additional information. Discussions occasionally deviate from gorillas to other primates, but often these wanderings reinforce the story of what has been happening to gorillas and why. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries."
"We are witnessing, literally, the end of an era in Africa, the collapse of ecosystems and the end of lineages that go back hundreds of millions of years as the human surge and its economic and environmental consequences overwhelm the last survivors. Geographer-Africanist James Newman, who has chronicled Africa's peopling and thrown new light on its 'exploration,' now turns his attention to the magnificent gorilla as habitats shrink and futures darken. This meticulously substantive yet deeply philosophical book will rouse your emotions and touch your heart as it follows the gorilla's fateful encounter with globalization."
– Harm de Blij, Michigan State University
"If you are fascinated by our close primate relatives, you must read this captivating book to become better informed about the changing and increasingly fraught relationship between gorillas and humans and what it means for their survival. James Newman, with a lifetime exploring African themes, is uniquely qualified to keep you enthralled from start to finish. His book is a must read for anyone interested in the human impact on wildlife and nature writ large."
– Marilyn Silberfein, Temple University