Journalism Student Reviews "13 Gold Monkeys"

This review was written by Faith Meckley, a journalism student from Ithaca College and author of Viridorari. If you wish to purchase a copy of 13 Gold Monkeys, click here!

“Colleagues have been asking me to write a detailed account of this landmark program, but I didn’t want to write a dry scientific story that would have to include a lot of detail that would be of interest to only a few other reintroduction scientists and historians. I thought the lessons of… evil, love, and loyalty; the power and beauty of a rainforest; and the drive of these remarkable monkeys to survive were too powerful to be buried in a droll scientific account.” Thirteen Gold Monkeys, page i

Even as a conservation enthusiast, environmental advocate, and animal lover, I probably never would have read a boring scientific report about the first ever reintroduction of zoo-born golden lion tamarins (GLTs) into the wild. Thirteen Gold Monkeys allows everyone from scientists to laymen to enjoy the story of this exciting moment in conservation history, rather than yawn their way through a technical report.

Beck’s writing style makes it apparent that he is a scientist first and an author second, but I still found Thirteen Gold Monkeys to be an intriguing and riveting tale of the likes of which I had never read. As a scientist, Beck is able to create a more precise and educational facet to Thirteen Gold Monkeys. In contrast, authors often have to provide secondhand, researched information on topics they aren’t familiar with, sometimes making up details or smudging and sensationalizing the specifics. Most importantly, Beck conveys his love and compassion for the GLTs in Thirteen Gold Monkeys, something an author who had never been in the field couldn’t do. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Beck and his wife out to breakfast, and after conversing with him I knew there was no way he could have fabricated his love for animals for the sake of a book. Beck is not only a scientist, but a conservation hero.     

At first, I was surprised when Beck gave the GLTs a voice in Thirteen Gold Monkeys. The more I read, the more I realized the importance of this aspect of the book. Beck’s interpretations of what the monkeys may have been thinking are fun and humorous, especially as they try to interpret human sayings and behavior. In a story that is riddled with its fair share of tragedies, the comic relief is welcome. Also, with the addition of the GLTs’ point of view, I learned more about the social structure and behavior of GLT troops than I ever would have from a scientific report. Not to mention, talking animals are always a good clincher for younger readers, who are subsequently the future stewards of our planet.

Hearing the GLTs’ sides of the story also provides that crucial emotional connection between reader and character, a connection that may later influence a reader to become a donor to important conservation organizations like Save the Golden Lion Tamarin. After reading the detailed account of the release of the two GLT families into the wild and understanding both the GLTs’ sacrifice and the researchers’ love and passion for them, I want to be more involved with conservation efforts. I imagine other readers would feel the same, especially the conservationalist and animal lover types that will naturally be drawn to Thirteen Gold Monkeys. After reading this book, I have a more well-rounded comprehension, now more than ever, of the importance of saving endangered species.

In summary, Thirteen Gold Monkeys is an incredible and engaging journey that will keep you turning pages. The book will give you an entirely new view of humanity’s impact on the earth and its creatures and refresh the importance of protecting the environment in your mind. Thank you, Benjamin Beck, for not burying this crucial story in the annals of droll, scientific reports.