Posts Tagged With: animals

Oliver

 

Oliver and Ken

Oliver and Ken Decroo, 1982, Wild Animal Training Center

 

I met Oliver in 1982. He was full grown male chimpanzee that you took very seriously. He had been billed as a humanzee (half-human and half-Chimp) but I always believed him to be a chimp. He was unusual just the same. He walked bipedally most of the time. While chimps will walk upright some of the time, I had never known one to do it naturally and all of the time. Other chimps feared him and most trainers chose not to work him but for whatever reason, he and I had a special bond.

The photo above is Oliver doing what he loved the most, running with me out of his cage. Oliver and the mystery surrounding his past inspired me to write, Almost Human. I am working on the sequel, More Than Human, were Oliver still plays a larger than life role.

 

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He No Longer Lives in Brazil

images

The flight from LAX to Rio de Janeiro (GIG) had been a long one but while tired I was excited to be at last joining the movie company to film on location. I had been hired to train Jaguars and was the only America working for the British film. When I met Gabriel at customs, I soon discovered that I had stepped into a surreal world and time. He stared right through me wearing a sweat-stained t-shirt that read “Kill Them All and Let God Sort them Out.” I could just make out a faded French Foreign Legion logo on a worn canvas bag slung over his shoulder.

In a thick Portuguese accent, he said in rehearsed English, “Welcome to Brazil,” and commenced to orchestrate us through customs. This was the tone that the shooting of this movie would take for the better part of a year. We filmed in fifty-five different locations that year which took us from the coast to deep in the jungles of the Amazon. We were on a golden voyage, a real old school adventure and it was 1984. Each day took us further from what we knew to a world of wild animals, jungle darkness, danger, Voodoo and real outlaws. We were a long way from home.

Continue reading

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Peacock Hunting

peacock_bird_201860I have been working diligently on the sequel to Almost Human.

Finally, I’m close to finishing More Than Human. Over the last six months, personal matters side-tracked my progress—well sort of. So, I’ve set a goal of a thousand words a day no matter what. I’m pleased to say it is working. I am several weeks into this endeavor.

Writers, write. Continue reading

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On Being Smarter

 

congo

Ken Decroo and Congo, African Elephant, Photo by Gale Cooper, 1981

 

Concerning the training of wild animals, I often speak on the importance of being smarter than the animal you’re training. When asked to elaborate on this concept, I immediately think of Congo, an elephant I worked many years ago.

While all elephants are smart, Congo was a genius. He was a big African male that stood almost twice as tall as my six feet.  At the time I met him, he lived at an animal safari park in California. I first met him when I was asked to work him for a photo shoot promoting the book, Animal People by Gail Cooper. I was featured in one of the chapters and Gail Cooper wanted a dramatic photograph.  Continue reading

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Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New on the shelves – Almost Human by Kenneth L. Decroo

What happens when the line between ape and man is blurred?

Cover Illustration by Casey Whitesell

I’m honored and humbled. Almost Human has been selected for the bookstore in Sally G. Cronin’s great blog, Smorgasbord – Variety is the Spice of Life!. Thanks so much, Sally, for your support.

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Hide-N-Seek

Photo By Gail Fisher, LA Tiimes

Ken Decroo and Moja, 1978

There are certain events in our lives that, at the time, we may or may not realize how important or how defining they are. One such event happened with my first meeting with a chimpanzee named Dar.

I was being interviewed as the linguistic research assistant on a very special project that was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and located at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). This project was known as the Washoe Project and focused on teaching American Sign Language (ASL) to chimpanzees to determine if they were intelligent enough to possess language. I have to say, that on the flight up to interview, I was skeptical but as I was in need a position, I was willing to give it a chance.

Upon arrival, the interview began as expected but only at the beginning. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I was met at the airport and taken to the research compound south of town. The facility was a converted 1950 style dude ranch. It consisted of usual the array of research scientists, graduate students and student assistants scurrying around with clipboards in hand. But that was where the normalcy ended. I was ushered into a large, converted barn where researchers were exercising several chimpanzees of very ages and sizes. I say exercising but it looked more like wrestling and playing. The chimps were having a grand time swinging from ropes and tumbling in piles of hay. The place echoed with hoots and laughter.

After a while, I was escorted to large two-story ranch house that had been remodeled into the headquarters of the project. In a large reception area, I met the senior researchers, Drs. Alan and Beatrix Gardner. The interview went well and I was offered the job. I asked for a little time to decide which they understood and were agreeable to extend. This position would require me to relocate, leave my university to use my sociolinguistic skills in a very different and unusual context. I was encouraged to tour the compound on my own while I was deciding. In other words, they gave me free reign of the place.

I took a walk towards an apple orchard behind the main buildings. It was getting late as the interview had taken most of the day. There was a Fall chill in the air and all was quiet which was a marked contrast to all the bustling activity of the day.

As I made my way down a graveled lane between two buildings, the silence was broken by a series of hoots above me. To my surprise, I looked up to a chimp ambling down the roof towards me. The chimp swung effortlessly off the eves and dropped next to me. Startled, I stared into two deep, chestnut eyes. There was an intelligence in those eyes that was mesmerizing. Dar was a young adolescent with a broad white face accentuating two big floppy ears.

Before I could say or do anything, he signed, “Who You?”

Shocked, I gave my ASL name sign and asked, “Name?”

The chimp hooted and replied touching one of his big floppy ears. I later learned that was his name sign for “Dar”.

Dar panted and bounce up and down  hardly containing himself and signed, “You, me, play, hide-n-seek?”

I looked around unsure that this was really happening. I was actually communicating with a species other than my own. I did what any researcher would have done and signed, “Who, it?”

Dar loudly hooted making a classic chimp, open play-face, and answered, “You, chase—me hide.” He bounded back on the roof and disappeared over the ridge.

This interchange only lasted a few seconds but it defined the direction of my life to this very day. I was, for the next several years, to spend every waking hour in the company of chimpanzees. In my novel, Almost Human, I have attempted to capture what that world looks like.

The vehicle of American Sign Language, allowed me to perceive the world through the wise eyes of a different species and I grew to be a better person as a result.

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Goodreads Book Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Almost Human by Kenneth L. Decroo

Almost Human

by Kenneth L. Decroo

Giveaway ends September 18, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

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Book Signing – Hot Shots Coffee House – Blue Jay, CA – SAT – Aug 29 – 4PM

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For more details of the event click on the image above!

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Second Edition is Now Available!

The Beauty and the Beast!

The Beauty and the Beast! Thanks to Kat Gallego for providing the beauty!

The second edition of Almost Human is now available from Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

I’ve cleaned up after the proofreaders of the first edition.

Autographed copies of Almost Human can be purchased directly.

Buy Now Button

Shipping and handling listed in PayPal is for the USA (excluding Alaska and Hawaii). International shipping will vary.  

For information on book readings, signings and sparkling discussions go the my Amazon Author Page.

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What the Hell is a Book Signing/reading?

My friend, Jason, sent the perfect photo of how I read! Pacifico is a great

My friend, Jason, sent the perfect photo of how I read! Pacifico is a great “learning aid.”

Tomorrow, Sunday, July 12, at 3pm, I will do my first book signing/reading at Del Rio Vineyards and Winery in Gold Hill, Oregon.

I honestly don’t have a clue of what you do at one of these things. My agent was not much help as she suggested I “just be myself and sell books.”

I have to say that all the marketing part of the publishing business is a real mystery to me. I didn’t realize how much time I would be pulled away from writing my sequel, More than Human, to fulfill obligations that were in the “small print.” While it will be exciting to meet people in person who have read my book,  Almost Human, I am really nervous about doing this as I am completely out of my element. It borders on embarassing to me.

I plan to give the backstory of what inspired me to write the novel and some of what is behind the characters. Maybe talk about the craft of writing and answer questions if there are any.

I would love advice and suggestions. My reading is at 3pm tomorrow. HELP! 

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