In My Family Tree: A Life with Chimpanzees

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Grove Press, 2002 - Biography & Autobiography - 284 pages
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Sheila Siddle's life changed forever on one fateful day in 1983 when a local game ranger brought a battered, malnourished chimpanzee to the door of her cattle ranch in central Zambia and asked her to do whatever possible to save it. As Sheila and her husband, David, nursed the young chimp they would name Pal back to health, they cared for him as if he were a human infant-feeding him medicine and bottled milk, sharing their bed with him at night, and carrying him on their backs until he regained the strength to survive on his own. From these humble beginnings Sheila and David Siddle would go on to launch the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage, a world-renowned animal refuge that has grown to become the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in the world. Over eighty-five injured and unwanted chimps have found a home there, along with dozens of monkeys, baboons, parrots, tortoises, and antelope-and one disarmingly domesticated hippopotamus named Billy. In My Family Tree is Sheila Siddle's vibrant, vivacious story of how Chimfunshi came to be-and the unforgettable chimps who have helped to make it, in the words of Jane Goodall, "the most wonderful place on earth." As she relates the experiences of the chimpanzees who have survived war, abandonment, and abuse at the hand of humanity before reclaiming their lives as part of the Chimfunshi family, Siddle vividly evokes each of their unique personalities. There is Milla, the wise elderly chimp Jane Goodall brings to the Siddles who, after living among humans for decades (and acquiring a taste for cigarettes and beer), must reintegrate into chimp society. There is Sandy, the mischievous troublemaker whose antics distress the sanctuary's humans and primates alike, until a frightening brush with a local predator changes him forever. And there is Rita, the emotionally scarred young chimp who blossoms in maturity to become a devoted mother. Humorous and heartbreaking, full of insight and wonder, In My Family Tree tells the uplifting story of one woman's transformation from a grandmother on the brink of retirement to an internationally acclaimed animal welfare activist devoted to defending the habitat of our closest genetic relatives-and the stories of the chimpanzees she has come to know and love along the way. The inspiring journey of a woman who has dedicated her life to providing a refuge for chimpanzees in Africa-and of the chimps that have become a part of her family along the way.

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Rebecca Stefoff
Limited preview - 2003

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