April 28, 2011 • Posted in The use of chimpanzees in research
Andrew Westoll; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011
In 1997 Gloria Grow started a sanctuary for chimps retired from biomedical research on her farm outside Montreal. For the indomitable Gloria, caring for thirteen great apes is like presiding over a maximum security prison, a Zen sanctuary, an old folks’ home, and a New York deli during the lunchtime rush all rolled into one. But she is first and foremost creating a refuge for her troubled charges, a place where they can recover and begin to trust humans again.
Hoping to win some of this trust, the journalist Andrew Westoll spent months at Fauna Farm as a volunteer and vividly recounts his time in the chimp house and the histories of its residents. He arrives with dreams of striking up an immediate friendship with the legendary Tom, the wise face of the Great Ape Protection Act, but Tom seems all too content to ignore him. Gradually, though, old man Tommie and the rest of the “troop” begin to warm toward Westoll as he learns the routines of life at the farm and realizes just how far the chimps have come. Seemingly simple things like grooming, establishing friendships and alliances, and playing games with the garden hose are all poignant testament to the capacity of these animals to heal. Brimming with empathy and winning stories of Gloria and her charges, The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary is an absorbing, bighearted book that grapples with questions of just what we owe to the animals who are our nearest genetic relations.