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The Wauchula Woods Accord: Toward a New Understanding of Animals

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  128 ratings  ·  34 reviews
An award-winning journalist’s all-night vigil with a retired chimp performer named Roger blossoms into a whole new way to regard our fellow creatures as well as ourselves.

While researching a recent New York Times Magazine cover story about chimpanzees, Charles Siebert visited a retirement home for former ape moviestars and circus entertainers in Wauchula, Florida known as
Paperback, 224 pages
Published February 16th 2013 by Scribner (first published May 21st 2009)
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The book is rather shallow and anecdotal in content, but it is so beautifully and passionately written, it's worth every word. I can't figure out whether he's trying to say that we and and animals are incredibly alike, or we and animals are so different that we will never understand them (he seems to attempt to make both points at different times), but if anything, his stories and experiences make it quite clear that we are ruining animals. A fast read, and a powerful one.
On the one hand I’m glad I know about the various rescue efforts described in the book. On the other hand, I didn’t like the way it was written and some of the story was fabricated. The copyright page has a note admitting that the interactions with Roger (a chimp at the Center for Great Apes), which form the backbone of the book, are embellished. The author claims to have sat with Roger at night which, apparently, was simply not possible. The speculation about Roger’s feelings and the musings ab ...more
Enthralling. Disturbing. Up-lifting.

Yes, somehow author Charles Siebert manages a hat trick.

The central narrative in the book The Wauchula Woods Accord, is the surprising connection, i.e. relationship that spontaneously happens between the author and Roger, a “humanzee”: a chimpanzee that has spent his entire life living with humans, now being forced to retire in the company of other chimps. Roger must somehow find his inner chimp relinquishing his humanity. But is that even possible? Can his hu
Apr 21, 2011 Jessica rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Animal Lovers, Animal haters
Recommended to Jessica by: NPR
Warning: This book details some of the saddest statistics, facts and stories you will read. Your heart will break and you will at times feel like throwing up from some of the brutality documented within these pages.

*I wept reading about “Lucy” the chimpanzee that was raised as a human daughter by a psychologist and his wife, just to see what would happen. What follows can only be described as bizarre years of breaking Lucy of all Chimpanzee instincts, lifestyle and knowledge and creating a depen
Siebert has been traveling the world learning about animal personalities and how much smarter/more thoughtful/more emotional they are than we thought. The main focus of the book is on primates and their struggles after they have been used as circus performers or actors or research subjects. There is also interesting information about animal trials throughout history (from flies to rats to pigs to elephants) and how wars and poaching in Africa affect elephants there. Siebert tells the story of hi ...more
Bob Nichols
Siebert's book takes you on his tour around the country (and abroad) where he relates revealing stories about human relationships with animals. For instance, Siebert tells the story of a psychologist who had sexual fantasies about a female chimpanzee he was raising and who admitted that he frequently let the chimp mouth his penis. The author tells us about a British historian whose book on the "Lost History of Europe's Animal Trials" describes cases of animals put on trial for their perceived cr ...more
An interesting story of a journalist interested in wildlife and conservation. The tales about the captive primates and other animals he has encountered are interesting. However, it comes off as a self involved book, more about him than the animals when he delves into his wandering thoughts about the line between human and animal, if there is one. These sections could not keep my interest. Also, I had my doubts about at least one claim in the book, which made the entire rest of the book suspect. ...more
Siebert is a wonderful writer, and this book contains many beautiful illustrations and scientific explorations of the biological bonds between humans and animals. He focuses almost entirely on the thousands of animals used annually in this country for entertainment and laboratory experiments, but glaringly omitted any mention of the inhumane treatment of the millions of farm animals raised annually in the US for consumption. In the epilogue, Siebert writes that the central premise of his book is ...more
Ryan Holiday
What a writer. I've read a lot of books about exotic animals throughout The Medici Giraffe and this is the most thoughtful, well-written and interesting. It has a narrative for a change, which is nice. It's a book about our relationship with animals and our growing understanding of their psychology and personalities, told through the events of a night the author spent with a chimp in the woods of Florida. Why, he asks, are we so drawn to portraying certain species as the opposite of what they ar ...more
Annette Roman
Ordered this book because I wanted to learn about chimp sanctuaries and more about chimp minds. The book is mostly about the BORING existential musings of the author, who fancies himself a poet. The framing device is a night spent staring at a chimp who seems obsessed with the author. Flashbacks to interesting research and history beliefs about the animal mind are a welcome relief and what one wants to read the book for.

The framing device is supposed to be about a bond between the author and th
Jul 22, 2009 Marla marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I heard the author interviewed on the Diane Rehm show (with a substitute interviewer) and the book sounded rather interesting. Although I believe the book to be a treatise on the human/animal relationship in general, most of it is concerned with chimpanzees. In fact, he noted in the interview that he originally wanted to title the book "Humanzee" but his publisher warned him that "no woman would buy a book with that title". (Woman? Huh?) Coincidentally, on the same day I read an essay by David Q ...more
Christina Fong
An book about Wauchula Woods a chimpanzee retirement refuge. There are also many anthropomorphic accounts of species other than chimpanzee. This is a very interesting read.
Sue Bridehead (A Pseudonym)
It's a little hard to get into Siebert's writing style at first. The book has an unusual structure to it: part introspective journal, full of speculation and anthropomorphism about how animals feel/mourn/endure psychological wounds; and part factual overview of how humans relate to, fear, condescend to, domesticate and abuse wild animals, historically and currently.

Intellectual in tone, elliptical in storytelling. I read this at a skimming pace and enjoyed it. But beware: Siebert veers toward t
Amy Seaholt
I don't read a lot of autobiographical non-fiction, because in general I find that people talking about themselves is tedious. If Mr. Siebert had cut out the paragraphs and pages in which he pondered the connection between himself and Roger, I would have been much more engaged. Since I began to skip those pages about halfway through, it made this a very quick read. On the other hand, his essays on the relationships and clashes between humans and animals were often riveting and worth sorting thro ...more
Only 200 pages but it took me weeks to read because the stories within were so painful that it was hard to continue. I appreciate the author bringing the tragedies humans inflict on animals to light, but I was less excited by his metaphysical ramblings at the beginning of each chapter. Also, I was expecting a much more light hearted book after hearing about it on This American Life, but the fun moments were interspered with things like rape of orangtuans by humans and the like.
I was really excited to read this book after I heard about it on the "Lucy" episode of Radiolab. Unfortunately, it didn't come even close to my expectations. Siebert has a long-winded, comma infected writing style that was very hard to follow. Furthermore, any insights he gave seemed to mostly come from other sources (quoting books and interviews) and not his own. It was an interesting topic, but I don't think I'll be going to him directly for any information in the future.
This is an amazing look at our closest cousins, chimps and other great apes, who have been ripped out of their own world and brought into ours, as performers and pets. Siebert makes a strong argument that these animals are essentially a distinct species, not quite human, not quite ape. He does so without treacly anthropomorphism either, yet the stories he tells of these unique and uniquely lonely creatures will break your heart. An eye-opener, for sure.
Ward Bell
Fascinating; read in one sitting. What happens to chimps after 6? They're too dangerous to be pets (200 lbs & 5x stronger than the strongest of us). They live past 70. Cheetah of Tarzan / Weismuller fame is in fancy retirement home. They're incredible lock-pickers and escape artists. And we are so much like them. What happens to Lucy (the renowned sign language star) will break your heart.
Andrew Quinn
Siebert can flat out write, almost too well, so that mediocre minds like mine heave from paragraph to paragraph to follow him, causing some brain drain. I was also influenced by my own hyper-sensitivity to animal cruelty, which made this subject hard for me to read and imagine. For this reason my review is not subjective.
A beautifully written, haunting yet strange, introspective book. It gives us a glimpse into the lives of captive chimps and holds a mirror up to us humans, asking the questions: What kind of creature are we to do so much harm? And: Do we want to live in a world without wild chimps, and if not, what are we going to do about it?
A very self indulgent book. Siebert spends half the time recounting stories he'd previously written or books he'd read, and the other half musing in purple prose. With no less that four passages fantasising about him being murdered by various primates, I'd say there's more pathology here than in just the author's subjects.
I liked this book and would be read another by the same author. Certainly explored some intresting themes about animals and how they are 'kept' by humans. What it means to be captive and one can get to all sorts of thoughts about how humans are captive to thier worlds (culture, work, entertainment)
How could a book about chimps in retirement homes be boring? Well, Siebert succeeds by framing each chapter as a minute by minute account of him sitting with a chimp and waxing on about the metaphysical connection between man and animal. More facts and less fluff would have made this book more interesting.
One of the best books I've read in years. It's a beautiful blend of memoir, nature writing, and research. Scientific and at turns impressionist, the implications of Siebert's writing have profoundly changed the way I look at the world. I will talk about this book with everyone that's close to me.
Ever wonder what happened to the "Trunk Monkey"? Siebert discusses the plight of primates used in the entertainment industry after they are no longer "cute". Pair this with Elizabeth Hess's book "Nim Chimpsky" for a compelling examination of the fate of our closest animal relative.
guy visits and writes about captive chimps in the u.s., homed after once being used in entertainment industries. He believe one chimp who took a liking to him once saw him on the street years before. seems possible to me. sad story about animal mistreatment
I do not understand what this book is about other than a man's love for a chimpanzee. It is interesting, but it's true nature is shrouded in the author's inability to make a point.

Interesting reading, but no focus.
Laura Pedersen
Jul 03, 2009 Laura Pedersen is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Thought this would be an interesting read, especially in light of that horrifying chimpanzee attack this past year. Not to mention poor ole' Bubbles. ( :) )
n* Dalal
I'm interviewing Charles Siebert next Thursday at the ungodly hour of 11pm, just to catch him at 9am his time! I'll get back to you with my review next week!
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Charles Siebert is a poet, journalist, essayist, and contributing writer for The New York Times Sunday Magazine. His work has appeared in a broad array of publications, including The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The New Yorker, Harper's, Vanity Fair, Outside, Esquire, and Men's Journal.
More about Charles Siebert...
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