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The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary: A True Story of Resilience and Recovery Hardcover – May 10, 2011

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Editorial Reviews Review

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.

Amazon Exclusive: Images from Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary
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The makeshift outdoor kitchen during Operation Cucarachas Toby relishes his private time in the chimphouse

Another bustling day in the Fauna chimphouse. Spock mulls over what to eat for lunch


The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary is a true story of endurance and resilience, compassion, dedication and love. I knew the prison-like conditions of the medical research facility from which Gloria Grow rescued these chimpanzees; when I visited them at their new sanctuary I was moved to tears. Finally they had reached a secure haven where, gradually, they could recover from their years of torment. Andrew Westoll is a born story teller: The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary, written with empathy and skill, tenderness and humour, involves us in a world few understand. And leaves us marvelling at the ways in which chimpanzees are so like us, deserve our help, and are entitled to our respect.”
—Jane Goodall Ph.D., DBE , Founder – the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace

“This book will make you think deeply about our relationship with great apes. It amazed me to discover the behaviors and feelings of the chimpanzees.”
—Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation

“This book is a wonder. Passionate, intelligent, moving and, above all, tremendously important, it illustrates the triumph of the wild spirit and offers surprising hope that the human animal might yet be redeemed. Think of Peter Singer's Animal Liberation and J.M. Coetzee’s The Lives of Animals, and you’ll have some idea of what it is you hold in your hands. It has been a long time since any author has inspired me to such extremes of compassion and humility.”
—Barbara Gowdy, author of The White Bone

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Advance Reading Copy edition (May 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547327803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547327808
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,480,030 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By jd103 on April 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've struggled a bit with how to write this review. This book by a writer who lived and assisted at the title sanctuary for a couple months turned out to not be what I expected, and although it's actually a much better book because of that fact, I can't help selfishly being a tiny bit disappointed because of it as well.

So let's make it clear from the start that this is not just a happy book overflowing with cheery stories about animals like many sanctuary books are, and as you might think from the subtitle. There are some moments like that, but this book is much more serious with as many heartbreaking moments as happy ones.

But a book which begins with the line, "Smell my phone" has plenty of humor as well. Some of this is provided by other animals at the sanctuary, but it's also found in attempts to outsmart the chimps. And there are inspiring stories such as one chimp who after observing a human treating another chimp's injury, takes over and provides future treatments himself.

The book describes the chimps' lives in labs as well as at the sanctuary, and tells the powerful story of how the sanctuary came to exist and how the chimps got there. It follows the author's experiences there and his process of trying to be accepted by the chimps, as well as the stories of the other people working there. We learn the individual stories of the chimps and how they've been affected by their pasts.

The book also includes some wonderful photographic portraits of the chimps. That's Pepper on the cover, who came to the sanctuary by luck, not by original intention--she was destined for many more years of experiments.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Deborah V VINE VOICE on May 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Do yourself a favor and don't go into reading this book expecting it to be light hearted, good feeling stories about chimps in a sanctuary. Although there are those moments, this is instead a book that realistically looks at what mankind does to its closet relative in labs and how the chimps deal with recovery when moved to Gloria Grow's sanctuary Fauna. Author Andrew Westoll arrives as a volunteer and these recollections will make you laugh and cry and sometimes despair of the human race yet also uplift you with how good people can be too.

Fauna sits on a 240 acre hobby farm in the Canadian-French countryside. Grow and her partner veterinarian Richard Allan have devoted themselves to rescuing chimps from labs and zoos and other undesirable situations. This is not a story of happy, well adjusted chimps of fiction, but rather a stark telling of what man can do to an animal in the name of science, preservation or whatever and how that animal through resilience and recovery can learn trust and love.

Westoll begins work at the sanctuary and the chimps the day he arrives. Gloria tells him bluntly that it is full moon week and things are crazy. He needs to obey the "Rules." Gloria says "First: take your jacket off. The bigger you look, the more threatening you are. Second: you're tall, so I need you to crouch. Third: do not stand too close to me. They don't interpret it properly. They can't control it. It's threatening. Four: respect the red lines on the floor. They're there for a reason. Inside the red, believe me, they will try to get you."

And thus starts Andrew's journey of working to gain the trust and care of the people who work with the chimps and the chimps themselves.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dawn Killen-Courtney VINE VOICE on May 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Andrew Westoll did a fabulous job on this book. It is a difficult subject to read about; what we put our nearest kin through for decades on end in research labs, yet he leads us into the subject with nuanced finesse. He starts writing about a whole huge moral and ethical mess by introducing us, as he himself was introduced, to the chimps of Fauna Sanctuary, thirteen individuals who had all done time -- most in biomedical research, a few in zoos. I came to see through Andrew's eyes the facets of the personalities (both human and chimp) because those are intertwined relatrionships there, between the chimps and the people who know they are doing their best for the chimps but can never make up for what other people have done to them. Repeatedly. Awful stuff, what they've lived through. And not just the invasive surgeries, not just the "knock downs" by dart to immobilize them for surgery, but just day after day year after year in the lab setting. We see the resulting psychosis unfold in incidents with Rachel, a chimp who was hand walked into the research lab by her original owner after she was no longer deemed suitable for a pet, and left there for decades. It is difficult to read, but I was able to (except for the material on Harry Harlow, but I already knew about him, and can't read it twice) because of the tone Westoll set, a loving, determined, and yes, even optimistic tone that allows us to hope that after a century of abuse in the name of science we may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for chimps.Read more ›
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