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The Last Great Ape

David McDannald, a 1994 alumnus of Washington and Lee, is the co-author of a fascinating new book, “The Last Great Ape: A Journey Through Africa and a Fight for the Heart of the Continent.”

Dave co-wrote the book, which is published by Pegasus, with Ofir Drori, a former Israeli military officer and founder of an organization called LAGA (for Last Great Ape), the first Wildlife Law Enforcement NGO in Africa. According to its website, LAGA was created because “the survival of Africa’s great apes demanded urgent action.” The organization focuses on bringing to justice dealers in the illegal bushmeat business, the ivory trade and the pet trade.

Dave lives on a West Texas ranch, where he not only tends cattle but also writes both fiction and non-fiction. He has recently published a short story in TriQuarterly and has had articles in Sierra Magazine and North Dakota Quarterly. A piece he co-authored with Ofir is in the Huffington Post.

He has also traveled in South America and Africa. He was on a trip to Kenya in 2000 when he met Ofir, and they became fast friends.

The book has been described as “a call-to-action memoir.” It recounts Ofir’s often harrowing adventures on behalf of the endangered animals, including his rescue of a baby chimp called Future from poachers who had slaughtered the chimp’s family and tied him up in a kitchen.

You can listen to a Voice of America interview with Ofir from earlier this year on the VOA website, and you can read more about the book on the website, The Last Great Ape: Adventure, Activism & The Book. One of the features there is the trailer for a documentary on Ofir that is being produced by Dave’s brother, Mark McDannald, a member of the W&L Class of 1997. You can watch the trailer on YouTube.