Posted by Richard Conniff on April 21, 2009
I’ve sometimes done some pretty odd stuff to try to see the world from an animal’s point of view. So I love this bit from an interview with primatologist (and vegetarian) Richard Wrangham in today’s New York Times:
Q. I understand that you once embarked on a chimpanzee diet. What was that like?
A. In 1972, when I was studying chimpanzee behaviors in Tanzania, I thought it would be interesting to see how well I could survive on what chimps ate. I asked Jane Goodall, the director of the project, if it I could live like a chimp for a bit. She said O.K. Now I wanted to be really natural and truly be a part of the bush and so I added, “I’d like to do it naked.” There, she put her foot down: “You’ll wear at least a loincloth!”
In the end, I never did the full experiment. However, there were times when I went off without eating in the mornings and tried living off whatever I found. It left me extremely hungry.
Q. What do you usually eat?
A. Oh, ordinary Western industrialized food. I won’t eat an animal I’m not prepared to kill myself. I haven’t eaten a mammal in about 30 years, except a couple of times during the 1990s, when I ate some raw monkey the chimps had killed and left behind.
I wanted to see what it tasted like. The black and white Colobus monkey is very tough and unpleasant. The red Colobus is sweeter. The chimps prefer it for good reason.
Q. You ate raw monkey for science?
A. Yes. I feel that by getting under the skin of a chimpanzee, you get insights that you don’t otherwise get. That’s how I came to this understanding about the role of cooking.
Wrangham’s new book is Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human.
Posted in Evolution, Food & Drink | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Richard Conniff on April 21, 2009
Here’s a review of my new book, sent back from a pamacari on the Amazon by Kraig Becker at The Adventure Blog:
As I noted last week, traveling is a perfect time for catching up on your reading. Long flights and layovers in spartan airports with little to do, makes you appreciate a good book all the more. And when heading to South America, I just had to take along a book I had received a few days before departing. I mean, it’s called Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff. How could I possibly leave that behind when I was headed to the Amazon? Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by Richard Conniff on April 20, 2009
The White House hasn’t commented so far on the announcement of a new species named in his honor, Caloplaca obamae. But here’s a little background on the strange business of scientific naming from my new book, Swimming With Piranhas at Feeding Time, due out from W.W. Norton on May 4:
Having a new species named after you is of course a great honor; scientists often characterize it as a form of immortality. But even among biological types, it can also be an occasion for dread. Entomologist May Berenbaum became apprehensive, for instance, after she discovered a new species and passed it on to an expert for classification and naming. “The last thing I need,” Berenbaum fretted, “is for a beetle whose distinguishing feature is a proboscis fully half the length of its body to be known as Berenbaum’s weevil.”
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Posted by Richard Conniff on April 13, 2009
My new book comes out in a few weeks, on May 4, and the Hartford Courant just ran an interview about it.
‘Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time’ By Richard Conniff
By DAVE HOLAHAN
Special to The Courant
April 12, 2009
Richard Conniff began his writing career in 1969 modestly enough, as a teenager penning obituaries for a small New Jersey newspaper. Later, after college and gainfully unemployed, he pitched a story about the New Jersey “state bird,” the salt marsh mosquito, to a local magazine.
It was published, and the rest, as they say, is natural history.
Conniff, of Old Lyme, quickly moved up the journalistic food chain, stalking and writing about larger, sexier and ever more exotic wildlife for magazines such as Smithsonian and National Geographic. He has run with cheetahs in the Serengeti, hung out with leopards in Botswana, even confronted feral thrips and springtails in Hartford’s Keney Park, where he helped to identify an astonishing 1,369 species (including a bald eagle) in a frenetic 24-hour “BioBlitz.”
He won’t demur if asked to track lemurs in Madagascar, where 70 species of the prosimian are. He even took a safari on his own forehead to locate and analyze a thriving population of indigenous follicle mites.
”Swimming With Piranhas at Feeding Time: My Life Doing Dumb Stuff With Animals” is a collection of 23 of Conniff’s magazine articles. His eighth book is an engaging account of his adventures. The author’s prose is eminently digestible, leavened with civilized wit and a well-developed sense of irony. Conniff doesn’t preach or devolve into scientific arcana as he explores the viciousness of humming birds Read the rest of this entry »
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