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Avaunt Issue 5

Inter-arboreal space

Par Donald Perry, Illustration: Robert G Fresson - 3 mn

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Adventures in the canopy

The biologist and inspiration for the film Medicine Man discusses how climbing could be the central key to understanding human evolution.

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My career in canopy exploration began in 1973 when I travelled, with my friend John Williams, out to the fire lookout above Topanga Canyon in California, his hang-glider strapped to the roof of his van. A gale-force wind was blowing which dowsed my desire to fl y, but John got ready fearlessly and jumped off the mountainside.

The flight was in trouble from the start and, though he was far away, I could tell John was struggling for control. As he flew over the ridge and out of sight, I knew a safe landing was unlikely and I bounded down the cliff , scanning the landscape frantically.

Then I looked up. The hang-glider was perched securely in the tops of some nine-metre-tall trees and to my great surprise John was alive! “Not quite what I expected,” he called down nonchalantly. Thus began an afternoon of clambering up t...

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