Chimpanzees are our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom. They share 98 percent of our genetic makeup; yet despite our many commonalities, some aspects of chimp behavior remain a mystery to us. Biologists studying chimpanzees have made significant discoveries about our primate cousins, but the bulk of that knowledge has been gained relatively recently. We still have much to learn, and the need to learn is great; chimpanzees are highly endangered in the wild, and some primatologists believe that they are at the brink of extinction.
In the hope that increased awareness will brighten the future for these great apes, Disneynature has released a film following in the footsteps of Earth, Oceans, and African Cats. That film is Chimpanzee. Chimpanzee: The Making of the Film chronicles the entire process of the movie’s creation, from the idea that the directors pitched to Disneynature, to the challenging filming that took place deep in the heart of Africa. Using their own words, the filmmakers discuss ground lost and ground won both in the context of the chimpanzees’ territory wars, and the progress of the film itself.
The filmmakers’ perseverance was rewarded when they happened upon the chimpanzees that would become the focal point of the movie: Oscar and Freddy. Orphaned at three, Oscar had little chance of surviving without a mother to nurse him and teach him to sustain himself. So it was quite surprising when the alpha male of the group, Freddy, adopted the baby and began taking care of him. The heartwarming and remarkable relationship between these chimpanzees is captured within this book through anecdotes told by the filmmakers and stunning photographs taken in the Taï forest. Their story, as well as the story of the film’s production, will prompt both laughter and tears, so make sure to grab a hanky!
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CHRISTOPHE BOESCH is an evolutionary biologist and the director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. After first visiting the Ivory Coast in 1976, he returned in 1979 to begin a long-term study of the Ta forest chimpanzees. He has published many papers and a number of books, includingWild Cultures: A Comparison Between Chimpanzee and Human Cultures. Concerned about the continuing deforestation in Africa, Christophe founded the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation to fight for their survival. Hedwige, his wife, says that Christophe has an uncanny ability to predict what the chimpanzees will do when he's following them in the forest.
SANJIDA O'CONNELL earned her Ph.D. in chimpanzee intelligence and then went on to direct a number of documentaries for the BBC, as well as National Geographic and the Discovery Channel, includingDemonic Apeand a three-part series on animal intelligence calledAnimal Minds. She has also worked as a wildlife presenter for the BBC and has had four critically acclaimed novels and three nonfiction books published. She writes on environmental issues and science for national newspapers and magazines. For her doctorate, she studied sign language, which is used to communicate with chimpanzees; now that she has a daughter, it's becoming very useful.
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