Stany Nyandwi’s gift for communicating with chimpanzees is so special that world-renowned primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall has called him a “chimpanzee whisperer.” His skills and devotion to these creatures—our closest living relatives, with whom we share 98.7 percent of our DNA—have earned him international awards and sent him on travels within Africa and around the world. But he began life in poverty, born and raised in a dirt-floor, straw-roofed hut in rural Burundi. The Chimpanzee Whisperer is the story of his astonishing life journey.
It is also an African story. Receiving only an elementary education before he quit school, he suffered injustice and tragic loss because of his ethnic group. He began caring for orphaned and rescued chimps in Burundi. When the country descended into civil war and genocide, he was forced to flee with the chimps and endured long separation from his family. Continuing to work with and learn about chimpanzees in Kenya, Uganda, and later South Africa, he made himself into an incomparable authority.
His memoir has adventure, danger, and many unique and touching stories about chimpanzees that show his bond with and understanding of them. As told to award-winning author David Blissett, it reveals a remarkable man who has refused to let circumstances defeat him. Conditioned by hate, wounded by loss, he has lived for love, faith, and compassion, giving new life, as Dr. Jane Goodall writes in her foreword, “to so many chimpanzees whose families, like his own, were torn apart by violence.”
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About the Author
David Blissett is an award-winning author of fiction as well as numerous nonfiction works, including Snake Catcher, cowritten with Tony Harrison; Our Primate Family, cowritten with primate expert and conservationist Lou Grossfeldt; and Reflections of Elephants, with photographer Bobby-Jo Clow. He lives in Sydney, Australia.
Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, is world-renowned for her trailblazing work studying chimpanzee behavior in the wild. She founded the Gombe Stream Research Center in Gombe National Park, Tanzania, and the Jane Goodall Institute for Wild Life Research, Education, and Conservation and is the author of many books. Among her honors is appointment as a UN Messenger of Peace.
Table of Contents
Authors' Note vii
Foreword Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE ix
Prologue A Spot of Tea and an Escapee 1
Chapter 1 Growing Up in a Land of Broken Hearts 5
Chapter 2 Houseboy Finds Halfway House 19
Chapter 3 Apocalypse Looms 34
Chapter 4 Freedom Flights and Homelessness 47
Chapter 5 Courting Death-Choosing Life 62
Chapter 6 An Island of Shells … and Chimps 76
Chapter 7 Reputation, Integration, and Chimp Tales 91
Chapter 8 What Family Means 110
Chapter 9 Culture Shocks, Candy, and Commendations 126
Chapter 10 What Is Justice? 141
Chapter 11 Moving On 155
Chapter 12 Working in Eden 169
Chapter 13 Riding the Same Truck 184
Helping Chimps 194