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The Ghosts of Gombe

A True Story of Love and Death in an African Wilderness

Dale Peterson (Author)

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On July 12, 1969, Ruth Davis, a young American volunteer at Dr. Jane Goodall’s famous chimpanzee research camp in the Gombe Stream National Park of Tanzania, East Africa, walked out of camp to follow a chimpanzee into the forest. Six days later, her body was found floating in a pool at the base of a high waterfall. With careful detail, The Ghosts of Gombe reveals for the first time the full story of day-to-day life in Goodall’s wilderness camp—the people and the animals, the stresses and excitements, the social conflicts and cultural alignments, and the astonishing friendships that developed between three of the researchers and some of the chimpanzees—during the months preceding that tragic event. Was Ruth’s death an accident? Did she jump? Was she pushed? In an extended act of literary forensics, Goodall biographer Dale Peterson examines how Ruth’s death might have happened and explores some of the painful sequelae that haunted two of the survivors for the rest of their lives.
Dale Peterson is the author or editor of twenty books, including Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (coauthored with Richard Wrangham), The Moral Lives of Animals, and Eating Apes.
"Jane Goodall’s research center on the shores of a Tanzanian lake pulsates with the passions, perils, and promises of the 1960s in Dale Peterson’s The Ghosts of Gombe."—Foreword
"This brilliant narrative will haunt you. Dale Peterson has brought to life the Gombe of the late 1960's, describing the entwined lives of the chimpanzees and the people studying them. It's a true story of adventure, danger, and sudden death that makes compelling reading."—Jane Goodall, founder of the Gombe Stream Research Centre, author of The Chimpanzees of GombeIn the Shadow of Man, and Reason for Hope

"Not only does Dale Peterson give us a vivid and insightful account of two years at the most scientifically pivotal field camp in history, but his masterful storytelling reveals both the humans and the chimpanzees at Gombe to be compelling and quirky characters. If you care about animals and the people who study them, you must read this book."—Sy Montgomery, author of The Soul of an Octopus and The Good, Good Pig
"The Ghosts of Gombe is at once a gripping story, a riveting mystery, and a dramatic portrait of life at Jane Goodall's chimpanzee research camp in East Africa during the late 1960s. There is nothing like it anywhere."—Marc Bekoff, coauthor of The Animals' Manifesto: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age

"The mysterious death of a young American woman propelled Peterson into this investigation of the making of one of the Western world’s great scientific achievements. His story of dedication, inspiration, and occasional naïvete and confusion among Jane Goodall’s research team of volunteers, students, and young scientists during the 1960s might sound like fiction, but The Ghosts of Gombe is as absorbing and authentic as it is original."—Richard Wrangham, author of Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human

Dale Peterson and the Ghosts at Gombe || Radcliffe Institute

Dale Peterson, who writes books about nature, evolution, animals, and people who work with animals, worked on a new book as a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute. Here he discusses the focus of that book, which takes places at Jane Goodall’s research site from 1967 to 1969. Peterson is interested in the complex social relationships that developed among the people working in this isolated piece of African forest and the surprising relationships that emerged between some of the people and the animals they studied.

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