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5.0 out of 5 stars

on 5 June 2011
This book was first published in 1987(2002), has 282 pages, 31 B/W photos, 19 colour pictures, numerous beautiful line drawings of baboons by DEBORAH ROSS and 3 maps. The foreword is by George B Schaller. SHIRLEY C STRUM was born in Stuttgart, Germany in 1947 and received a doctorate in anthropology from University of California at Berkeley in 1976. For 15 years she studied OLIVE Baboons in Kenya, from 1972. She lives with her husband DAVID 'Jonah' WESTERN and their children Carissa and Guy, in KENYA and California.
On 10.9.1972, Shirley flies from San Diego to Nairobi and then in her VW heads west towards the Great Rift Valley, admiring Mt Longonot and Mt Suswa on her left. She was heading for 45,000 cattle ranch at KEKOPEY, near Gil Gil, to study the 'Plumphouse Baboons'. She would have to stay at the 'Red House'(KISERIGWA). It took her 1 week to find the baboons. She was fascinated the way they used their thumbs and fingers. There was no sharing of food. Grooming was common. Shirley soon realised that she would have to come out of the VW white van and walk amongst the baboons. She started identifying individuals and their behaviours. Wearing sunglasses made them run away. Finally, she could walk with the troop with her tape recorder, clipboard and binoculars. She needed a baboon guide, so she chose PEGGY, the highest ranking female in the troop. Shirley could now identify each baboon at a glance. She found that females and their kins were the stable core of the troop. Males came and went. There were friendships between males and females, but none between adult males.
It took tremendous determination not to communicate or touch the baboons. By January 1974, she found baboon patterns different from other authors. Both male and female became leaders, when needed. Shirley returned to Kekopey in July 1976. By 1978, it was 6 years for her in Kenya. Contrary to belief, Shirley found that most successful males were low ranking, least aggressive, long term residents. Baboons also ate young tommies, hares and small birds. In 1976, Kekopey was sold and Gil Gil baboon project was launched. In November 1982, old Peggy died after breaking a leg. Other 131 baboons, had to be moved and on 11.10.1983, COLCHEOCIE Ranch in LAIKIPIA agreed to take them. later Shirley marries David 'Jonah' Western and in August 1984, she was pregnant. The translocation of baboons had gone well and they settled well. So in March 1985, after 13 years, Shirley left CHOLOLO, Laikipia, Kenya.
Baboons are one of the commonest animals seen on safari. reading this book will help to understand them better. Other books on animals of Africa are:-
(1) The Serengeti Lion, Schaller 1972
(2) The Leopard, Turnbull-Kemp 1967
(3) Spotted hyaena, Hans Kruuk 1972
(4) Simba, Guggisberg 1962
(5) Elephant, Commander Blunt 1933(1971)
(6) Spotted Sphinx(Cheetah), Joy Adamson 1969
(7) The African Buffalo, A R Sinclair 1977
(8) The Arm'd Rhinosceros, Nick Carter 1965
(9) Tall Blondes(Giraffe), Lynn Sherr 1997
(10)The African Wild Dog, Harpe 2009
Having born in Kenya, I enjoyed reading this book.
Read and ENJOY.
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on 1 May 2001
Shirley C. Strum presents in this book a highley personal story about her 'sentimental education' as a baboon watcher and anthropologist from 1972 until 1986 when this book was first published. The main plot of the book is the gradual awakening of the author not only to the complexities of baboon society, but also to the difficulties of academic life and local conservation. Since 1972 Strum has followed (and still follows) the same troop of olive baboons at Kilkopey/Chololo in Kenya. She early came into conflict with the senior academics of her field (known as the'silverbacks') by maintaining that male baboons did not dominate the troops in the way one thought earlier. In order to get their way with the females they had to rely on strategies and not brute force. In the middle of this scientific controversy the baboon troop was threatened by the encroachment of settlers in the Kilkopey area. The baboons started to raid the crops of the locals and a traditional man vs. animal conflict emerged. How could the scientists contribute to a solution for all parties? Humans and baboons alike?
This book is a very exciting read and goes to the heart both of baboon society, scientific controversy and local conservation issues. From being a 'young scientist just gathering the facts' she reluctantly had to turn into a 'scientist fighting for her views' and a 'scientist trying to find political/ecological solutions to local conflicts'.
Shirley C. Strum is professor of Anthropology at University of California at San Diego
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