Exploring the history humans share with gorillas, Voices from the Ape House offers a behind-the-scenes look at the complicated social lives of western lowland gorillas through the eyes of a devoted zookeeper. The memoir traces Beth Armstrong’s love and fascination for animals, from her childhood to her work with captive primates as an adult. Through her eyes, readers sense the awe and privilege of working with these animals at the Columbus Zoo. Individual gorillas there had an enormous effect on her life, shaping and influencing her commitment to improving gorilla husbandry and to involving her zoo in taking an active role to protect gorillas in the wild.
Through anecdotal stories, readers get a glimpse into the fascinating lives of gorillas—the familiar gentleness of mothers and fathers toward their infants, power plays and social climbing, the unruly nature of teenagers, the capacity for humor, and the shared sadness by group members as they mourn the death of one of their own. In the end, Armstrong’s conflict with captivity and her lifelong fondness for these animals helped shape a zoo program dedicated to gorilla conservation.