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Unwitting Travelers: A History of Primate Reintroduction
Reintroduced gorilla in a pirogue, by Tony King
Unwitting Travelers is an encyclopedic collection of 234 primate reintroduction programs that were conducted between the 16th century and the present. The author, Benjamin Beck, combs through more than 600 sources to document the location, dates, species, numbers of animals, methods, purposes, and outcomes of each program. His work reveals that more than 24,000 primates have been reintroduced in the wild. With only a single exception, the primates had no idea of where they were being taken or why; they were truly unwitting travelers. They struggled to adapt; many didn’t.
Often, those planning to reintroduce primates find that documentation of previous efforts is usually absent, or reports are unscientific, lacking in detail, and scattered in obscure sources. They are forced to reinvent the wheel, and the wheel turns on unproven assumptions and intuition. Many primates suffer as a result.
Beck uses well-honed definitions to avoid semantic misunderstandings, and adds insightful, and sometimes wry, thoughts and observations. Many of the accounts describe heart-wrenching cruelty and deprivation, and others bring heartwarming and inspirational outcomes. Beck introduces us to many of the reintroduced primates (at least two reintroduced chimpanzees had a taste for scotch whiskey), and he shows that while some of the humans involved where indifferent, greedy, cruel, or contentious, many were dedicated, talented, adventurous, and tireless in their efforts.