This review of Andrew Westoll’s new non-fiction book, The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary: A True Story of Resilience and Recovery, appeared in the May issue of Q&Q.
Reviewer Emily Donaldson writes:
Only the most intransigent heart will be unmoved by Andrew Westoll’s account of his time spent volunteering at Quebec’s Fauna Sanctuary, a refuge for chimpanzees that have been retired from biomedical research. In Westoll’s hands, Fauna’s 13 chimps “ each ravaged by years, sometimes decades, of staggeringly cruel experimentation “ are drawn as vividly as characters from the best literature, leaving us with no doubt about their profound sentience.
At the core of Fauna is its crackerjack founder, Gloria Grow, who originally intended the sprawling farmland she and her veterinarian husband bought in 1990 to be a temporary refuge for dogs rescued from Quebec’s notorious puppy mills. The decision to convert the facility into a chimpanzee sanctuary was Grow’s unusual response to a midlife crisis that prompted her to do something substantial in the name of animal welfare.
Westoll describes Fauna’s chimphouse, with its labyrinthine walkways, privacy rooms, and sliding metal doors, as one part Alcatraz, one part Rube Goldberg. This is a world of boundaries, rules, and rituals, in which even minor violations of protocol can have major, sometimes deadly, consequences for both chimps and humans.