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190 × 135 mm
232 pages
123 illustrations, 91 in colour
15 Apr 2013

Gorilla Ted Gott, Kathryn Weir

Only coming to prominence in the mid-nineteenth century when English, French and American scientists encountered the animal for the first time, the gorilla’s physical resemblance to humans immediately struck a chord, marking the beginning of a relationship between animal and man that has yielded diverse results, becoming a popular subject for scientists, writers, anthropologists and artists alike. Along with the orang-utan, and some chimpanzees, gorillas are classified as higher apes, a group defined through similarity to humans and which has held a special place in theories of evolution. Today, the remaining gorilla habitats in Africa are threatened by deforestation, and populations continue to be diminished by illegal hunting. They are again at the heart of impassioned contemporary debates on animal ecology and animal ethics.

In Gorilla, Ted Gott and Kathryn Weir provide a compelling and sometimes disturbing account of our relationship with this noble, intelligent animal. From Tarzan to King Kong, they track the gorilla through the history of expeditionary narratives, literature and film, where it has acted as a screen upon which fears of sexuality, theories of criminality and narratives of humanity’s relationship with primates have been projected.

At times amusing, moving and unsettling, and packed with information and anecdote, Gorilla presents a notable history of this animal’s influence on our culture, as well as its plight at the hands of humankind. The book will appeal to the many fans of this gentle giant, as well as all who wish to learn more of its troubled past and uncertain future.

‘Our vegetarian cousins (we shared a common ancestor seven million years ago) have generated an odd mix of fear and appeal. No fewer than 14 illustrations in this fascinating work depict gorillas carrying off human females.’ – The Independent

‘[this] work is not merely an introduction to the species’ natural history. It explores the concept of the gorilla – how it has featured in literature ranging from scientific papers to schoolboy adventure books, and in entertainment from music hall to movies, most notably, of course, King Kong. Packed with nuggets of little-known information, it is a fascinating distillation of the history of gorilla lore that will surprise naturalists and movie buffs alike.’ – BBC Wildlife

‘an excellent introduction to the species, alongside a cultural and historical account you simply won’t find in any other single source . . . Gorilla offers an eclectic look at its subject – incorporating a good overview of what we know of these gentle giants, and more poignantly, what they continue to teach us about ourselves, both in fictional contexts and in real life. This book is a great example of why the Animal series works so well – the content is highly informative, but the format frees authors from any requirement to be purely ‘scientific’ . . . Gorilla deals with our relationship with this close cousin, and the apparently shrinking differences between us. With these magnificent great apes being afforded the equivalent of basic human rights in many countries, but still inching closer to extinction in the wild, it makes for a deeply thought-provoking read.’ – Zoological Journal of the Linnaean Society

‘This beautifully produced book contains hundreds of striking photographs of the gorilla in all its guises. Gott and Weir trace an intriguing and sometimes disquieting account of this noble animal’s chequered history. Their compelling story will appeal to all who are concerned about its uncertain future.’ – The Toowoomba Chronicle, Australia

‘Ted Gott and Kathryn Weir have produced a fascinating account of these largely peaceable, mostly vegetarian and, sadly, increasingly rare animals.’ – IVU News online

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Ted Gott is Senior Curator of International Art at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

Kathryn Weir is Head of International Art and the Australian Cinémathèque at the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane.