The story of primate research in the United States, told through the lens of a retirement home for traumatized chimpanzees.
Primatologist turned writer Westoll (The Riverbones: Stumbling After Eden in the Jungles of Suriname, 2008) spent several weeks as a volunteer at Fauna Sanctuary, in the French Canadian countryside, where since the late 1990s the devoted Gloria Grow has cared for chimps who suffer from psychological disturbances after having spent much of their lives in painful biomedical research. Living in a basement apartment, he helped out by washing dishes, scraping feces and preparing medicine-laced afternoon smoothies. This incisive book describes the daily lives of 13 resident chimps, their resilience after so much suffering and the invasive research practices that “render them as psychologically compromised as human victims of domestic violence or political and war prisoners.” Chimps have been used in invasive research since the end of the 17th century, writes the author. In the United States, the intelligent, human-like creatures have been involved in lab experiments on diseases from polio to AIDS, and served as living crash-test dummies in high-speed and high-altitude travel studies. The U.S. is the only developed nation that continues using primates in such experiments, with about 1,000 chimps now locked up in research facilities. Westoll urges readers to support the Great Ape Protection Act (now in committee in Congress), which is designed to end the use of chimps in research and has bipartisan support. The author will donate a portion of his royalties to the Fauna Lifetime Care Fund.
An affecting work about our genetic cousin.