Oct 4, 2008

A Primate's Memoir

by Robert M. Sapolsky

Sapolsky decided early in life that he wanted to study primates. This book is a humorous memoir of his early experiences in the field. When he first got the the bush in East Africa, things were not quite what he had expected. A Primate's Memoir describes not only his efforts to win the trust of his study group of baboons and some of the insights he gathered from witnessing their behavior, but also how he had to learn to live in the bush and navigate a foreign culture. He discusses the ins and outs of primatology, dealings with other scientists and working with local park rangers, wildlife advocates and farmers who live adjacent to the National Park where "his" baboons live. At one point Sapolsky travels to visit the area where Diane Fossey studied gorillas, and offers some criticism about her methods. Usually when I read a book about a field scientist studying animals I find all the information about their journey, culture shock and struggles with local authorities peripheral and rather boring. But in this case it was so amusing and interesting I enjoyed that part of the story very much. Although I would have liked to know more about the baboons.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 304 pages, 2001

more opinions:


  1. This one sounds great!! I love the title too. :D

    My family went to a couple of those driving tour wildlife zoo/refugee/whatever (I don't know what they're called, but I hope you know what I'm talking about), and the baboons were always really creepy, lol.

  2. I've heard Robert Sapolsky speak a few times, and he's very outgoing and colorful - I imagine his books would be the same. Good to hear this one lives up to its reputation!

  3. Eva- creepy, huh? I've seen tv films of them, and I see how they could be like that. Did they stare at you a lot?

    Fyrefly- Colorful is a great word to describe his writing as well.

  4. Dr Sapolsky has created a masterpiece with this book. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

    Check out my review of the book.



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