Things to explore. Things to read. Things to hear.

Dr. Halloran's Menagerie of Curiosities

A Place Dedicated to the Exploration and Preservation of Our Fascinating World

MIDWAY

CHIMPANZEES

In almost everything I have written, chimpanzees are at the center of the story. To me, what makes them so interesting is who they are as a species and their resiliency. Chimpanzees find ways of adapting to even some of the most dire circumstances. 

There is a very sad history of human/chimpanzee interactions. This is present in the ecological crisis that wild chimpanzees find themselves, where they face exponential habitat depletion, as well as hunting and live capture. This is also present in captivity, where chimpanzees face a welfare crisis.  This has largely been due to chimpanzees historically having  been seen as little “almost humans” to the point of existing as objects of entertainment or study subjects. This type of anthropomorphism is at the root of so much misunderstanding and at the root of a lot of nightmare scenarios for individual chimpanzees. Sadly, anthropomorphism still clouds the way many see chimpanzees and deprives them of being able to see how amazing they are in their own light. I believe it is important to explore this history of human/chimpanzee interactions and how we, as humans, can overcome it for the betterment of animal welfare in general.

I work as the Director of Chimpanzee Behavior & Care at Save the Chimps, one of the largest chimpanzee sanctuaries in the world. This wonderful organization is home to over 200 chimpanzees that have been retired from laboratory research, the entertainment industry, and the pet trade. You can learn more about Save the Chimps here.

HUMANS

William Blake, Charles Dickens, Ludwig Wittgenstein,  Babe Ruth, Jules Verne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Miles Davis, Andrew Wyeth, Rudolf Carnap, Saint Augustine, Ayn Rand, Julius Fučík, Jean-Jacques Rousseau,  E.O. Wilson, Ty Cobb, Erik Satie, Bartholomew "Black Bart" Roberts, Albert Camus, Ulysses Grant, Langston Hughes, Bono, Ub Iwerks, Jane Goodall, Enrique Caruso, John Muir, Freidrich Neitzsche, Billie Holiday, Bronislaw Malinowski, Gaylord Perry, Saint Josephine Bakhita, Thelonius Monk, Claude Levi-Strauss,  and Brian Wilson (in no particular order) are all people I find really interesting!

PRESERVATION

The preservation of our natural world is the responsibility of every resident of this planet. I am involved in a small chimpanzee conservation initiative in Sierra Leone. A bit about it...

Due to unprecedented rates of deforestation, many chimpanzee communities across West Africa find themselves living in small forest fragments and alongside human villages. In fact, a 2010 census of chimpanzees in Sierra Leone found that most chimpanzees live in these unprotected situations rather than inside forest preserves. The result is an ever increasing frequency of human-chimpanzee interactions. For humans, this means that they often lose crops to chimpanzees. Additionally, chimpanzees can be very dangerous neighbors, with reports of chimpanzee attacks on humans as well as livestock commonplace. This often means that the chimpanzees are hunted by humans, as a means of resource defense. Chimpanzees are also frequently the victims of capture for the illegal pet trade—and researchers estimate that up to 10 adults are killed for every infant that poachers manage to capture Finally, for both humans and chimpanzees, frequent interactions can lead to disease transmission.In sum, frequent human-chimpanzee interactions, coupled with habitat loss, is a conservation crisis.
The Tonkolili Chimpanzee Project is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization seeking to find methods of addressing chimpanzee conservation in a heavily anthropogenic area where human-chimpanzee interactions are common
The Tonkolili Chimpanzee Site is located in Central Sierra Leone alongside the Pampana River. The site is home to two communities of chimpanzees. The chimpanzees in this area live in a forest farm mosaic alongside several human villages. Habitat loss in the region is such that the Tonkolili chimpanzees now rely on the crops grown by humans to survive.
Complicating the circumstances, the humans at this site face extreme poverty. The crops that are destroyed by the chimpanzees represent an extreme problem with significant consequences to the very survivability of the human population. Because of this, chimpanzees in this area were frequently killed prior to 2012.
The Tonkolili Chimpanzee Project initially began in 2012 as an agreement between the local villages and a group of primatologists and conservationists. The villages would receive aide with sustainable agriculture in return for a complete moratorium on killing chimpanzees., Since this time, the project has grown, and members of the local community have become paid staff on the Tonkolili Chimpanzee Project - monitoring the population through camera traps, biological sampling, and observations, while protecting the population from harm. You can learn more about it here.

WRITINGS

Lion Shaped Mountain

In a remote corner of West Africa, in a place that only the locals know about, the world of a young chimpanzee is changed forever by forces beyond his control. Lion Shaped Mountain is the story of chimpanzees struggling to survive against a world that becomes less survivable for them each day, and the resilience it takes to stay alive. It is a tale, told through the eyes of our closest living relatives, of how every facet of one's environment dictates one's world -- the flora and fauna, the actions and reactions, the histories and the present, the beliefs and realities. These are the forces that affect us all.

...and implicate us all.


"Halloran is more than a storyteller. He composes with a philosophical and poetic grace... A lovingly rendered, highly illuminating, and melancholy portrayal of an indelible group of chimpanzees." --Kirkus Reviews


"My favourite part of this book is the manner the author depicted the behaviors of these chimpanzees. It was so real that I connected to them in the manner I did to some of the human characters." -- OnlineBookClub



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The Song of the Ape

The Song of the Ape traces the individual histories of each of the five chimpanzees on the boat, some of whom came to the zoo after being wild-caught chimps raised as pets, circus performers, and lab chimps, and examines how these histories led to the common lexicon of the grou

Interspersed with these histories, the book details the long history of scientists attempting (and failing) to train apes to use human grammar and language, using the well-known and controversial examples of Koko the gorilla, Kanzi the bonobo, and Nim Chimsky the chimpanzee, all of whom supposedly were able to communicate with their human caretakers using sign language.

The Song of the Ape is a lively, engaging, and personal account, with many moments of humor as well as the occasional heartbreak, and it will appeal to anyone who wants to listen in as our closest relatives converse.




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your local bookstore!


THINGS TO SEE AND HEAR


Chimpanzees at the Tonkolili Site reacting to a thunderstorm at night.


Chimpanzees at the Tonkolili Site moving through an abandoned farm.


CONTACT

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