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Since coming to international prominence in the mid-nineteenth century when English, French, and American scientists first encountered them, the gorilla’s physical resemblance to humans has struck a deep chord. Gorillas quickly came to dominate evolutionary debates and grew prevalent in literature, art, film, and popular culture—they are the focus of movies such as Congo and the inspiration for the video game character Donkey Kong and DC Comics super villain Gorilla Grodd. In Gorilla, Ted Grott and Kathryn Weir provide a compelling and unsettling account of our relationship with these highly intelligent animals as they fight extinction due to habitat destruction, commercial hunting, and disease.
Gott and Weir describe how early European observations of gorillas in their native Africa were the genesis of literary and artistic representations such as King Kong. At the same time, gorillas became symbolic of sexuality and subconscious, uncontrolled urges, and influenced theories of criminality. It was not until Dian Fossey’s research in the 1960s and 1970s that many misconceptions about the gorilla—especially their violence—were dispelled. A notable history of the gorilla’s influence on our culture and its plight at the hands of humans, Gorilla will appeal to any animal lover wanting to learn more about this noble creature and its uncertain future.

232 pages | 60 color plates, 40 halftones | 5 3/8 x 7 1/2 | © 2013


Biological Sciences: Natural History

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“Chapters that focus on the use of the gorilla in visual media convey stunningly how these apes have been persistently co-opted by those in power to vilify persons or social groups considered marginal or inferior.”

Times Literary Supplement

“Fascinating work.”  


“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 halls 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

“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.”  

Toowoomba Chronicle, Australia

“Gott and Weir have produced a fascinating account of these largely peaceable, mostly vegetarian, and, sadly, increasingly rare animals.”  

IVU News online

Table of Contents

1. Lascivious Beast or Shy Vegetarian?
2. Good Shot: Europe and America Meet the Gorilla
3. Gorilla Mania
4. Sex and Crime
5. All in the Family

Timeline of the Gorilla
Select Bibliography
Associations and Websites
Photo Acknowledgements

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