“Beast or Blessing, a Baboon Matters Trust publication was written by Jenni Trethowen and provides insight into the highly polarised emotions and opinions that surround baboons outside our nature reserves. Anecdotal accounts of funny, maddening, sad, and touching experiences from a range of people including animal experts, baboon monitors, children, and `ordinary ‘ people have been recorded with sincerity by Jenni, affectionately known as the Baboon Lady.
There are many reasons why this book will touch everyone interested in Baboons or the plight of wild animals surviving on the interface of human and wild landscapes. The beautifully authentic illustrations are one reason – they are a walk with baboons in a book. But the message that resonated most with me is the unashamed acknowledgement of the individual baboons as personalities, and Dr Jane Goodall’s affirmation that treating animals as `subject matter with codes’ distances us from intuitive insights and a full understanding of them. Jenni, in her own words, has travelled a long and lonely road, trying counteract the “negative emotions of fear, hatred and anger that have dominated many decisions that affect baboons”. Her love for and years of speaking out for the baboons and of encouraging humans to do the right thing is a strong and binding thread that runs through the book. Many of the anecdotes reflect a tolerance for and understanding of the situations that baboons find themselves in. This is summed up in the anecdote by Gary Van Rooyen when he recalled how Jane baboon joined him unexpectedly on a walk up Slangkop and that they exchanged pleasantries. “ She (Jane) did mention that they (the baboons) really meant no harm and seeing that we had come and built in their area and eradicated their food supply, surely they could pop down for the odd scrap.”
If you were not already conscious of it, reading Beast or Blessing will grow your appreciation of the richness of spirit that baboons add to our lives.
Available at Baboon Matters or email Baboonmatters@cybersmart.co.za
Review by Kim