Kindred Beings: What Seventy-Three Chimpanzees Taught Me About Life, Love, and Connection
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Enter a world of tender friendships, staunch loyalties, violent jealousies—and enduring love.
As a child, Sheri Speede knew that she wanted to advocate for animals in any way she could. But it was not until many years after veterinary school, when she was transporting a chimpanzee named Pierre away from a biomedical facility as part of her job as a conservation advocate in Cameroon, that Dr. Speede discovered her true calling. She began to search for land for a forest sanctuary for captive chimpanzees that were held on chains and in small cages at local hotels.
Dr. Speede eventually founded the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center, a forested home for orphans of the illegal ape meat trade. One chim- panzee, Dorothy, was rescued by Dr. Speede and her colleagues from a bleak existence imprisoned on a chain and forged a deep friendship with her. Dr. Speede explains how chimpanzees, like humans, are capable of a broad spectrum of emotional behaviors—both hateful and loving. Dr. Speede also candidly reveals her own struggles as a stranger in a foreign culture trying to adjust to rural African village life. And she admits that unlike Dorothy, she was not always kind, gentle, and forgiving.
Dorothy died of old age at the sanctuary, and a photograph of Dorothy's funeral, in which Dr. Speede cradled Dorothy's head while her family of chimpanzees mournfully viewed her body, went viral after being published in National Geographic. The world was surprised at the depth of the chimps' grief at the loss of their friend, but Dr. Speede was not. Through the chimps, she had come to understand the meaning of love, loyalty, and true connection.
While this is a compelling story about the emotional complexity of the chimpanzees she rescued and befriended, it is also Dr. Speede's story. Major events in her personal life, including love affairs, dangerous run-ins with criminals, and the birth of her daughter, unfold as the development of her primate rescue center runs parallel to her own development. Ultimately, Kindred Beings is a story of profound resilience, of both the apes and the woman who loved them.
Him. “None.” He shook his head as he answered, without hesitation or explanation. I was still registering the inconsistency, wondering how someone shot a gorilla without a gun, when he started walking again. I wondered if he had lied about one or the other of his statements. Another option, which I wasn’t knowledgeable enough to consider and which was probably the truth, was that a bushmeat dealer had placed a command and provided a gun temporarily to an experienced village hunter who did not.
Monitoring the loading of our imported fence equipment and lots of other building materials we had bought in Yaoundé. We had hired a welder to create large latticework panels from individual iron rods and then had stored the panels at the sawmill. Welded onto a sturdy frame, these would form our cage walls. A company in the Douala port had donated a twenty-two-foot metal shipping container, and we had managed to transport it, too, to the Coron sawmill weeks earlier. When all of it had been loaded.
And rear wheels on the passenger side were half buried in mud. I pointedly avoided eye contact with Estelle, but I could still read her thoughts, flying at me like barbs. “We’ll get out,” I reassured all. Kenneth and I had had recent experience digging ourselves out of a mud bog. I knew it might take a long time, and it did. Estelle and I tried to comfort the increasingly distressed chimpanzees while Kenneth and the driver, both already exhausted from the night without sleep, took turns with our.
Perhaps she simply got the idea from Nama and adapted her own way of bread dipping. Of course, I had no way of knowing, but I wondered about it as I watched them sitting quietly together, using different dunking methods to enjoy their bread with tea. Another clue that Nama had lived in a house was her propensity for cleaning. One morning I arrived at the cage to discover that Nama was holding a washcloth-size piece of one of the big blankets I had left for her and Dorothy. I didn’t see whether.
Of him stem from my observances of him with the other chimpanzees. He earned my deepest respect for the venerable chimpanzee he was with them. But Jacky wouldn’t have reached his potential as a gentle leader without the unwavering support and guidance of wise and brave Nama. Her loyalty, sense of justice, and courage were unsurpassed. Whether in collaboration with Jacky or acting alone, she always made admirable choices. One of our former volunteers is probably alive today only because Nama put.