Sheri Speede founded the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center in Cameroon as a home for orphans of the illegal ape meat trade. This is the story of how one little girl who loved animals found her true calling in a forest sanctuary in Africa as a committed animal activist and rescuer. It's an adventure story, because after all she was a stranger in a foreign culture trying to adjust to African village life--and it's a love story, because through the chimps she helped rescue she came to understand the meaning of love, loyalty, and true connection.
As a child who knew that she always wanted to grow up and advocate for animals in some way, she took the traditional path at first by choosing a veterinary career. But soon after beginning her veterinary career she was moved by the plight of three adult captive chimpanzees on display in three small cages located on the back side of the Atlantic Beach Hotel. Captured as infants by poachers they had been in captivity most of their lives. Her sadness at the smallness of their lives haunted her and she was determined to see them released from their torment.
Though it took her some time to actually fulfill the promise she made to them to free them, she was eventually successful and established her sanctuary in the Mbargue forest. In this book, we see the development of Dr. Speede's personal story alongside the emotionally complex stories of the chimps she befriended. We come to know and love these "kindred beings" just as she does. When one of the rescued chimps (Dorothy) dies from old age at the sanctuary, we mourn too. Here's the photograph of Dorothy's funeral (in which Dr. Speede cradled Dorothy's head while her family of chimpanzees mournfully viewed her body).
This photo went viral after being published in National Geographic. The world seemed to be surprised at the depth of the chimps' grief at the loss of their friend. Dr. Speede wasn't, and we weren't either after reading this powerful story of these personalities that are so similar to humans. Dr. Speede has spent her life battling ignorance and apathy and evil trying to end animal abuse and the suffering they endure at our hands. This compelling story of her bravery and determination to safeguard their well being is uplifting and inspiring. How fortunate our planet is to have people like Dr. Speede who are determined to live their convictions out in their daily lives sometimes against overwhelming odds.
Dr. Speede is founder and Director of In Defense of Animals-Africa, an organization that is well worth your support. Read this book. Make a donation. It is important that this extraordinary work continue.