Monday, May 13, 2013

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

When Sophie's parents divorced, she was eight years old, and moved with her father to Miami.  Now  she spends every summer with her mother in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the bonobo sanctuary.  Her mother has spent her life building this sanctuary which takes in the orphaned bonobo apes, and raises them to be released into the safety of a bonobo reserve on an isolated island in the Congo river far to the north of the Kinshasa sanctuary.  Bonobos are close cousins to chimpanzees and were called pygmy chimpanzees until 1954 when they were renamed bonobos.  The Congo  river separates the homeland of the chimpanzees and gorillas on the north side of the Congo from the bonobo homeland on the south side of the Congo.  Bonobos are a gentler and less hostile ape due to their separate homeland with fewer competitive species to share the jungle.  But they are endangered due to the extreme poverty of the people of the Congo, who hunt them for meat and kill the adults then sell the orphans on the streets to make money.
Fourteen year old Sophie saw one of these bonobo orphans,  being dragged through the streets  as she was  being taken to the sanctuary from the airport in Kinshasa.  She demanded the driver to stop and she paid the peasant for the orphan to rescue him and take it to her mother.  This was the beginning of Sophie's summer and it would be the most dangerous summer of her life.
Her mother gave Sophie the responsibility of being the surrogate mother for the orphan, Otto.  He was close to death, and it would be her job to nurse him back to health.  The attachment between the two quickly changed Sophie's life forever.  
A month after her arrival, her mother left Kinshasa to take the adult orphans up north to the reserve to release them back into the wild.  The next day, the volatile government was overthrown,  and soon  rebel soldiers invaded the sanctuary, brutally killing all the staff.  Sophie and Otto survived by entering the sanctury jungle area that was surrounded by a solar powered electric fence.  The bonobos who lived within this fence were not yet ready for release into the reserve, but were possibly as big a threat to Sophie as the rebels if they rejected her entering their world.
Sophie learns to live with them, to eat what they eat, sleep in their tree nests, and stay well hidden from the rebels until the electricity in the fence died, and Sophie knew she must get away before the rebels discover that it is off.  She finds herself, and the bonobos who follow her, making their way outside to escape certain death.  But the journey to find her mother leads through many heart-stopping dangers.   Sophie must use all her strength, courage and knowledge of the Congo to survive. Now she is the one who is endangered!

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