Sunday, August 16, 2009

Writer Siebert Discusses His New Book—Which Was Re-Titled 11th Hour (And I’d Subtitle “Simian Roger & Me”)—And Animals In Crisis

I was greatly privileged to speak on Wednesday’s show with writer Charles Siebert, whose new book is “The Wauchula Woods Accord: Toward A New Understanding Of Animals.”

The book chronicles his extended encounter with a retired circus chimp named Roger at The Center For Great Apes, a chimpanzee sanctuary in Wauchula, FL, but widens out considerably from the personal reportage of that encounter.

But as Charles made clear in our on-air conversation, his time spent with Roger had a profound impact on him (he originally intended to call the book “Humanzee”; it’s probably too late to consider my proposed sub-title: “Simian Roger & Me”), while serving as a jumping off point for addressing what he found at other chimp sanctuaries across the county he traveled to, and musings about scientific research and literature on the man/ape connection, as well as observations and reporting from other pieces he’s written.

Indeed, over the years, Charles Siebert has written a number of New York Times Magazine cover stories about animals and animal issues, most recently his July 13 piece on whales—a sizable portion of which was devoted to the phenomenon of “friendly whales,” the focus of the May 13 “Talking Animals.”

Other celebrated Siebert NYT Magazine cover pieces include an Oct. 2006 article on elephants experiencing something akin to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and, perhaps most disturbingly, as Charles and I discussed, this didn’t apply merely to captive elephants, but ones in the wild, too; and the story on chimps, the reporting of which led to his pivotal meeting with Roger and, ultimately, the new book.

In briefly addressing his career path, he explained that he came to writing about animals from a background as a poet. That makes perfect sense: "The Wauchula Woods Accord" and his Times Magazine pieces reflect the heart of a animal lover and advocate, and the soul of a poet.

Or maybe vice versa.

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