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Empty Hands, Open Arms is about community conservation in the Congo to protect the rainforest and the bonobo, a matriarchal great ape.

Empty Hands Open Arms tells the story of a different approach to rainforest and wildlife conservation. For several months, I followed the work of Congolese and American conservationists in the Congo. Their organization, the Bonobo Conservation Initiative, uses community building to promote conservation in the world’s second largest rainforest. We entered the rainforest by bush plane, landing in a field, and traveled on national highways that were mud paths.   

Watching the Bonobo Conservation Initiative at work, I learned how, with few funds, they have established numerous protected areas for the bonobo, a matriarchal great ape that shares 98.6% of human DNA and that is the only great ape never to have been witnessed killing another of its kind. Bonobos are one of the most intelligent creatures on the planet, with close-knit social groups that in many ways resemble our own. During the Second Congo War, however, thousands of them were exterminated by soldiers and starving people who relied on hunting to survive. Bonobos are now critically endangered, and their rainforest habitat is rapidly shrinking.  

The conservationists that I am writing about work with the values of local people, with their folklore and spiritual beliefs, in order to create cultural support for conservation. They focus on community consensus and finding ways to address the needs of the local people through conservation. The result is a conservation movement that might be characterized as viral, neighboring communities creating their own protected areas with virtually no funding.

In Empty Hands Open Arms, I offer both a travelogue as well as a close description of how they do their work so that others can reproduce it. The book is a character-driven examination of conservation approaches and the many struggles that conservationists face and that we all now face to protect the environment. For it, I interviewed dozens of conservationists and extensively researched the work being done to protect great apes from extinction. I am currently raising funds to finish researching and writing the book. Thank you for your time and support.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

At this point, there are few risks other than those involved with travel for the final research. I have already published two books: a memoir and a novel that won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for best first book in the 54 countries of the British Commonwealth, including Canada, the UK, and Australia. Empty Hands, Open Arms is under contract with Milkweed Editions, a US publisher, and it will be published in October 2013.

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    Your name will be included in the acknowledgments of the book. (This is for US and English Canadian editions, for at least the first 5 print runs. In the US, the book is forthcoming with Milkweed Editions.)

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    You receive your choice of 1 photographic print from my travels. The size will be approximately 10x10, depending on the shape of the photo. See photos here: http://500px.com/DeniBechard/sets/congo_faces

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    Your name will be included in the acknowledgments of the book, and you receive your choice of 1 photographic print from my travels. The size will be approximately 10x10, depending on the shape of the photo. See photos here: http://500px.com/DeniBechard/sets/congo_faces (The mention in the acknowledgments is for US and English Canadian editions, for at least the first 5 print runs. In the US, the book is forthcoming with Milkweed Editions.)

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    Your name will be included in the acknowledgments of the book, and you will receive an autographed first edition hardback copy of the book. (The mention in the acknowledgments is for US and English Canadian editions, for at least the first 5 printings. In the US, the book is forthcoming with Milkweed Editions.)

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    Your name will be included in the acknowledgments of the book, and you will receive an autographed first edition hardback copy of the book. You will also receive your choice of 1 photographic print from my travels. The size will be approximately 10x10, depending on the shape of the photo. See photos here: http://500px.com/DeniBechard/sets/congo_faces (The mention in the acknowledgments is for US and English Canadian editions, for at least the first 5 print runs. In the US, the book is forthcoming with Milkweed Editions.)

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    Your name will be included in the acknowledgments of the book, and you will receive an autographed first edition hardback copy of the book. You will also receive your choice of 3 photographic print from my travels. The size will be approximately 10x10, depending on the shape of the photo. See photos here: http://500px.com/DeniBechard/sets/congo_faces (The mention in the acknowledgments is for US and English Canadian editions, for at least the first 5 print runs. In the US, the book is forthcoming with Milkweed Editions.) Estimated delivery: Nov 2013 Add $9 to ship outside the US

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    Your name will be included in the acknowledgments of the book, and you will receive an autographed first edition hardback copy of the book. You will also receive your choice of 5 photographic print from my travels. The size will be approximately 10x10, depending on the shape of the photo. See photos here: http://500px.com/DeniBechard/sets/congo_faces (The mention in the acknowledgments is for US and English Canadian editions, for at least the first 5 print runs. In the US, the book is forthcoming with Milkweed Editions.)

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    Your name will be included in the acknowledgments of the book, and you will receive 2 autographed first edition hardback copies of the book. You will also receive your choice of 3 photographic prints from my travels. The size will be approximately 10x10, depending on the shape of the photo. See photos here: http://500px.com/DeniBechard/sets/congo_faces (The mention in the acknowledgments is for US and English Canadian editions, for at least the first 5 print runs. In the US, the book is forthcoming with Milkweed Editions.)

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    Your name will be included in the acknowledgments of the book, and you will receive 2 autographed first edition hardback copies of the book. You will also receive your choice of 5 photographic print from my travels. The size will be approximately 10x10, depending on the shape of the photo. See photos here: http://500px.com/DeniBechard/sets/congo_faces (The mention in the acknowledgments is for US and English Canadian editions, for at least the first 5 print runs. In the US, the book is forthcoming with Milkweed Editions.)

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    Two hours of my time: for a Skype conversation/conference, or for a public event, such as a reading or a classroom presentation. This option does not cover travel costs. The in-person meetings can correspond to my travels in the US or during my book tour (I am often in NYC, Boston, and Minneapolis). For readings or presentations in other cities, you can contact me to see if it is possible for me to visit there, so long as you or your organization can cover the costs of travel and accommodation.

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    All of the preceding rewards combined: Two hours of my time: for a Skype conversation/conference, or for a public event, such as a reading or a classroom presentation. This option does not cover travel costs. The in-person meetings can correspond to my travels in the US or during my book tour (I am often in NYC, Boston, and Minneapolis). For readings or presentations in other cities, you can contact me to see if it is possible for me to visit there, so long as you or your organization can cover the costs of travel and accommodation. Your name will be included in the acknowledgments of the book, and you will receive an autographed first edition hardback copy of the book. You will also receive your choice of 1 photographic print from my travels. The size will be approximately 10x10, depending on the shape of the photo. See photos here: http://500px.com/DeniBechard/sets/congo_faces (The mention in the acknowledgments is for US and English Canadian editions, for at least the first 5 print runs. In the US, the book is forthcoming with Milkweed Editions.)

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    (This is a corrected version of the previous award since I couldn't change it) A combination of preceding awards: Two hours of my time: for a Skype conversation/conference, or for a public event, such as a reading or a classroom presentation. This option does not cover travel costs. The in-person meetings can correspond to my travels in the US or during my book tour (I am often in NYC, Boston, and Minneapolis). For readings or presentations in other cities, you can contact me to see if it is possible for me to visit there, so long as you or your organization can cover the costs of travel and accommodation. Your name will be included in the acknowledgments of the book, and you will receive 2 autographed first edition hardback copies of the book. You will also receive your choice of 5 photographic print from my travels. The size will be approximately 10x10, depending on the shape of the photo. See photos here: http://500px.com/DeniBechard/sets/congo_faces (The mention in the acknowledgments is for US and English Canadian editions, for at least the first 5 print runs. In the US, the book is forthcoming with Milkweed Editions.)

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    A combination of preceding rewards, with the exception that your name will be acknowledged in a separate section, giving special thanks for your contribution. The other rewards include the following. Two hours of my time: for a Skype conversation/conference, or for a public event, such as a reading or a classroom presentation. This option does not cover travel costs. The in-person meetings can correspond to my travels in the US or during my book tour (I am often in NYC, Boston, and Minneapolis). For readings or presentations in other cities, you can contact me to see if it is possible for me to visit there, so long as you or your organization can cover the costs of travel and accommodation. You will receive 2 autographed first edition hardback copies of the book. You will also receive your choice of 5 photographic prints from my travels. The size will be approximately 10x10, depending on the shape of the photo. See photos here: http://500px.com/DeniBechard/sets/congo_faces (The mention in the acknowledgments is for US and English Canadian editions, for at least the first 5 print runs. In the US, the book is forthcoming with Milkweed Editions.)

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