PGS Spain: New Book – “Non Human Hominids”
posted in 14 Jun 2024

By Pedro Pozas Terrados (Executive Director GAP Project Spain)

“When you realize the value of life, you care less about discussing the past and focus more on conservation for the future.” The last entry in Dian Fossey’s diary before she was murdered.

Their Future in Our Hands

For 22 years, my life has been entirely and selflessly dedicated to the defense of non-human hominids (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans), their habitat, and indigenous peoples, within the Great Ape Project Association, which was founded in Spain in 1999. During these 22 years, we have been ridiculed by politicians and columnists, attacked even by animal and ecological groups that consider us speciesists, as well as by other institutions that keep animals captive in their facilities as if they were lifeless specimens. Despite all this, the Great Ape Project remains standing, in constant struggle, within the realm of general environmentalism, defending their basic rights and expanding the fight to the defense of the ecosystems of our planet and the rights of indigenous peoples around the world, confronting cruelty and the violation of their human rights.

It is inconceivable that today many minds still behave obtusely, without knowing or valuing our evolutionary brothers who have so much to teach us. Darwin was also ridiculed, not only for his theory of evolution but for showing us how closely we are related to the species of great apes, with whom we share gestures, attitudes, cultures, feelings, tenderness, and love.

Many people are surprised by videos that sometimes circulate on the internet, where you see a gorilla or chimpanzee mother cradling her child, kissing it, and taking care of it as we do with a baby. This should not surprise us. What should impress us is that despite all these similarities, great apes continue to be confined for our entertainment and benefit, and that we are decimating their populations in the wild. Fortunately, our way of thinking is changing, although very slowly.

José María Bermúdez de Castro, who wrote the prologue to my new book, “Non Human Hominids”, told me: “We share a lot with the great apes and this idea needs to penetrate readers. Their defense lies in understanding that we share the same origin with them, a vast amount of genes, and very similar behavior. Our external appearances are deceiving, and this is a problem, a barrier that needs to be broken down.” Therefore, we need to break the species barrier, showing that our non-human evolutionary brothers deserve to be protected, both in their habitat and in captivity.

Over these years, it is true that we have advanced in our knowledge of the great apes, their social life, customs, and culture, thanks to studies like those of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté M. F. Galdikas, pioneers in the study of great apes in their natural environment. Today, not 48 hours go by without the networks showing us a study published in some scientific journal about our closeness to the great apes, how much they resemble us in terms of behavior or culture: laughter, gestures, family, empathy, sadness, sign language, symbol language, fear of death, friendship, companionship, love, learning, use of tools, visual retention, searching for medicinal herbs, etc. In the different chapters and sections of the book “Non-Human Hominids”, we will discover all these and other facets.

Current primatologists even admit that we have biological and psychological proximity to them in terms of cognitive abilities and skills. However, they rarely criticize their confinement, as they recognize that their studies are often based on captive primates. There are few primatologists or studies that highlight the captivity of great apes in zoos. There, they are psychologically mistreated, found in enclosed areas, exposed to noise, music, and laughter, and at night confined in cages and small spaces.

In June 2019, the primatologist Tetsuro Matsuzawa, who dedicated his life to the study of chimpanzee intelligence, stated in an interview published by Sinc that when you start analyzing these primates, you realize that they are very similar and close to humans or even superior in some aspects, as his most well-known research, “Chimpanzee Visual Memory”, has shown. For Tetsuro: “We humans, in one generation, can change hair or eye color; external appearance is easy to manipulate. The study of chimpanzees shows us that we cannot be swayed by physical appearances. Humans and chimpanzees are almost the same creature.”

Non-human hominids should be considered part of the very history of humanity and, therefore, members of our family and even, in reference to chimpanzees and bonobos, as belonging to the same genus Homo.

In the conclusion of the monumental encyclopedia “The Origins of Humanity”, Pascal Picq writes: “The great apes present themselves at the doors of the human sciences, but many authors continue to preach in favor of an integral humanism. However, how can we think and construct man based on ignorance? It is necessary to understand that describing what we share with certain species called ‘animals’ or ‘non-human’ is not part of an attempt to deny man. He does not disappear, but those he has long kept separate through arrogance, an arrogance that no longer has legitimacy, come closer. Man is not reduced to what he shares with the great apes, but builds himself from this common state.”

In another important part of the aforementioned encyclopedia, it is categorically stated that “Regarding genetic and behavioral data, we now know that chimpanzees and bonobos should be classified in the same genus Homo. But resistance remains alive, despite the few genetic differences proven between these species and humans, which are smaller than those existing between a horse and a zebra, for example, both classified in the genus Equus. Why so much fear of showing the truth? Why so much resistance since Darwin’s time? What are we afraid of?

In this book funded by the Great Ape Project, I will also address the issue of great ape captivity and the psychological consequences of not being able to develop their natural activities as a species. I will recount true stories whose protagonists are them, with names, with special qualities, with surprising cognitive abilities.

From my perspective and struggle of so many years in environmental conservation, both professionally and selflessly in the Great Ape Project and other associations, it is evident that, in addition to the great apes, other special and intelligent beings, such as cetaceans, elephants, and animals in general, also deserve respect for life and the recognition of essential rights. They are sentient beings with consciousness.

My intention with this book is to contribute to the fight to end aggression against non-human hominids, recognize their rights, protect their populations in the wild, equally defending their habitat and the local human populations that coexist with them, and end their captivity.

To do this, it is necessary to set aside our speciesist prejudices and know the wonderful world of non-human hominids, beings who have shared with us the difficult path of evolution for thousands of years. They are an unchangeable part of our origins and the very history of humanity. Each of us followed a different path, seeking a habitat where we could survive the harsh conditions of the environment over thousands of years of evolution.

This is just another gesture within the general recognition that humanity is blindly walking towards the massive destruction of the Earth’s ecosystems. That is why human beings must get off their selfish vehicle, take off the blindfold that prevents them from seeing reality, take note of their acts of plunder and vandalism towards what belongs to everyone, and implement immediate solutions based on a common interest.

The book “Non-Human Hominids” will not leave you indifferent. It is a call to human sensibility, to social justice between species, to place our evolutionary brothers on the pedestal they deserve, with respect and admiration, granting them their basic rights without tearing our garments, and to occupy their true place in the history of humanity. We must leave behind the abuses and trade of their lives, so that their populations in the wild are respected as they have been for millions of years of history, in contrast to how they are disappearing and being exterminated today. We need to stop seeing them behind bars, laughing at ourselves when we see them in places that are not their habitat, in captive enclosures where their culture, will to live, socialize, and seek their own path in the evolution of species have been amputated. They have the right to follow their own path of freedom.

This book aims to open our eyes, strip us of the anthropocentrism so ingrained in our culture and human science, see them as non-human persons with the right not to be exploited for our benefit, the right to life and freedom, to end the captivity that humans insist on maintaining to feel superior to the rest of the species, when simply the plant kingdom is superior to us. To have empathy for the other non-human. To consequently recognize the truth of life.

In the prologue, José María Bermúdez de Castro, scientist, academic, and Co-Director of the Atapuerca Sites, says: “In your hands is a book that talks about the closest living primate species to us. Pedro Pozas has dedicated his entire life to defending the rights of these species and many other living beings, with the legitimate intention that they be protected as they deserve. A necessary and very commendable work, which few are willing to carry out with total selflessness. I think that reading the following pages will make you reflect and see life in a very different way. That is the hope of the author of this book.”

In the editorial, Francisco Garrido Peña, professor and philosopher, states that: “Placing rights where only the mechanistic logic of extreme simplification reigns is betting on our own survival. In this bet, Pedro Pozas has lived and fought for years, author of this new book about apes and their rights. When the years pass, if we are still here, we will see people like Pedro Pozas as the heroic precursors of the civil rebellion against great simplification.”

A book to remember that we are not the only surviving hominids of our lineage. A book to be taken to court and demand their rights. A book that will not leave you indifferent to the slavery of our evolutionary brothers and that is a call to the injustice suffered by their populations in the wild and those chained in cages living in solitude.

“Non-Human Hominids” will be published by the Ibero-American Cultural and Scientific Association (ACCI), Visión Net S.L. publishing house. To access and buy the books, use the links below: