This book emerged from a conference, ‘The Great Apes Revisited,’ sponsored and hosted by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, and held in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico, 12–19 November, 1994. The organizers were William McGrew and Toshisada Nishida, and the monitor was Linda Marchant. But the result is much more than conference proceedings, and in the 20 months from meeting to publication most chapters went through notable transformations. For example, although only 23 primatologists took part in the conference, 40 contributed to the book.
The origins of the conference lie two decades earlier, in another Wenner-Gren conference, ‘The Great Apes,’ organized by Jane Goodall and David Hamburg, and held in Burg Wartenstein, Austria, in July, 1974. Five years later, the results were published, along with additional invited chapters, as The Great Apes (Hamburg & McCown, 1979). Of the participants in the 1974 conference, only a handful are still active in research on great apes (including the two organizers), while others have died, retired, or shifted to other interests.
The two conferences can be contrasted in several ways. In 1974, there were no papers discussed on bonobos (Pan paniscus) nor lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla); too little was known. All but one of the field studies of chimpanzees were of the eastern subspecies (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthit), given the lack of knowledge then of the other geographical races in central western (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) and far western (Pan troglodytes verus) Africa.