Sunday, January 11, 2009

Please Read

I entitle this blog entry "Please Read" because it has come to our
attention that many people have been receiving the wrong message from
our blog. I want to reiterate the facts of what we have been doing
here and that everything we have done here has been written in this
And seeing Laura upset makes me angry, so there are some things I need
to get off my chest.

The first thing I would like to mention is please read the blog in its
entirety. If you have the time, please read the welcome message and
every entry. Please remember that, in order to pass judgment on our
lives here, you should KNOW what we are doing here (and read every
caption too). We work really hard, and for people to just drop in,
pass judgment, cause trouble and go without even knowing all the facts
just feels really disrespectful.

The next thing I would like to state is why we are here in the DRC and
what we are doing here. We were invited to come here by a legitimate
wildlife foundation. They invited us to watch over these young
orphaned chimpanzees that had been confiscated, NOT bought, from
hunters and others. We have kept these chimpanzees in a sanctuary
environment, separated from everyone but their caregivers in a forest
setting. The only time a chimpanzee was kept away from the sanctuary
was when we looked after it in the house we are living in to
quarantine him in case he had any diseases that might have killed the
other chimpanzees. Anyone who works with chimpanzees in sanctuaries
should know this. All of the chimpanzees were quarantined for 4 – 6
weeks before they went to the sanctuary. After this we introduced
them to the sanctuary gradually, so they could become accustomed to
the other chimpanzees and the caregivers there.

The reason we have a sanctuary here in Aketi is there is a slaughter
of chimpanzees happening now in central and northern DRCongo – leading
to a sanctuary in Kisangani where the chimpanzees were to be
transferred. Due to delays, such as the only cement factory in DRC
collapsing, the sanctuary is not yet finished. Our colleague only
started confiscating, not buying, orphaned chimpanzees because he was
under the belief the sanctuary in Kisangani would be complete by late
2008. In the interim, we are doing everything we can to keep these
chimpanzees safe and well taken care of.

The last reason why we are here is that Laura is conducting research
for her thesis at Columbia University. As you know, if have been
reading the blog completely, that she is collecting fecal samples from
humans and chimpanzees to study zoonotic disease transfer between the

We keep this blog to give people an idea of what it is really like to
live out here. We put a lot of time into writing entries, and we add
a lot of emotion behind the entries because we want people to really
know what it's like. It's very upsetting (Laura is especially sad)
when people don't take the time to read what we write fully. What is
the point of writing at all?


june said...

I've been reading your blog from the beginning and enjoying your entries. I can see where the criticism is coming from (right or wrong) though - this post has given me more clarification on the sanctuary than any other post. Perhaps to stem off further criticism that you bookmark a FAQ post?

Nathan Koren said...

Hi, I've been reading your blog from the beginning. It's wonderful stuff, and I would urge you to keep going with it. There are always idiots on the internet, and I really hope that you don't let them get you down.

That said, I don't actually know what you and Laura have been referring to, when you talk about the criticism that you've received. I'm using a RSS aggregator, so I don't usually see the comments that are left on your entries, and looking through your past entries, I can't find any critical comments. I presume they've been deleted? If so, then I fear that this is a mistake -- without a clear record of both the criticism and your response to it, the issue sure to arise again (those who have no access to the past being doomed to repeat it). Without the context in which to place your and Laura's responses, it isn't possible to really understand what the two of you are actually talking about. Thus it's hard learn anything from what you're saying (unless, I suppose, you're already in the know -- but this excludes newcomers to the blog).

I can also say that there's absolutely no chance that you'll get your critics (or almost anyone else) to read the blog from the beginning prior to making a comment. Writing a blog is not akin to writing a book -- it's a fluid, realtime, interactive medium. You've now written a tremendous amount of material, and reading it from the beginning would take hours. Very few people in your audience will be able to make that sort of commitment, even if they wanted to. It's better to think of blogging as akin to news article writing, with brief reiterations of the fundamental issues at each step of the way.

Anyhow, this is intended as friendly, constructive criticism. I really appreciate the work that you're doing in DRC, and really appreciate the time that you take to share it with all of us! It saddens me to see you so frustrated by the latter part, and hope that perhaps some of my advice will be helpful in that regard.

Laura Darby said...

Dear June -- we just added an FAQ on the righthand side of the blog (under the Welcome message) that you can see here:
It's good to know that someone who's been reading the blog from the beginning wasn't clear before -- I guess it's good to have some outside perspective!

And to Nathan --

Your post was extremely gratifying to read, because we honestly figured the only people reading from the beginning were our friends and families ;) The criticisms were not in the form of comments -- I received them via email from some colleagues of mine who'd been forwarded certain images, out of context, with an alarmist message about my blog.

I obviously work extremely hard to protect chimpanzees, so the implication that I am/was somehow doing the opposite was extremely hurtful.

I do know what you mean about the blog being less like a book and more like an interactive media... I guess my hope was only that people stop and pause before assuming that I'm doing the wrong thing.

I am honestly, sincerely honored that people are commenting on this entry and that there are people I don't even know in the world who are tuning into our little part of Congo regularly. The more people who are aware of the plight of the chimpanzees here, the better.

And for that, I thank you!

Chrissy said...

Laura & Adam,

You have both been doing an amazing job in the DRC on both professional and personal fronts. Saving and transferring Aketi the chimp to a safe, loving sanctuary is a wonderful achievement and your thesis work is "ripe" for new knowledge of biological systems.

I look forward to your blog updates every week, to read about your programs' advancements but also your cultural experiences and observations. While the unpleasant elements are difficult for both of you, it gives me, and hopefully many others, a greater appreciation for services and comforts that we take for granted here in America.

Internet goons and the spread of misinformation are annoying downsides to the completely open sharing of information in your blog. While it's easy to brush off crazy strangers, the attacks from professional peers are harsh. A clear explanation to them of your proven methods is all you can do to alleviate these doubts.

I'm so glad you are both healthy and have acquired fries! The small victories and reminders of home will keep you sane, I just wish I could send you all a care package, including some TP! Keep up the great work and I look forward to seeing all of your pictures once you return to the land of easy internet! ^_^

Brian said...

Adam saysAnd seeing Laura upset makes me angry, so there are some things I need
to get off my chest.

Don't make Adam angry, you won't like him when he's angry.

Really though, isn't he adorable the way he loves his fiancee?