Skip to content

By Andrew Westoll

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, and why they deserve our help and are entitled to our respect.”
-Jane Goodall Ph.D., DBE, 
Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace

Westoll_Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary

A fascinating and moving account of a remarkable community of chimpanzees gradually learning to be chimps again after years spent in laboratories. 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 testaments 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, big-hearted book that grapples with questions of just what we owe to the animals who are our nearest genetic relations.

The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary is an unflinching, visceral look at the emotional and physical damage-actual, real damage done to specific, individual apes-in some of America’s most notorious biomedical research labs. It is also the story of humans who were driven to provide them with refuge, retirement, and things that should be basic but aren’t (things as basic as choice about food and friends), and, ultimately, their inherent right to dignity.”
-Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants and Ape House

“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 and Helpless

“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

PEOPLE gives The Chimps 4 out of 4 stars!
“As a volunteer at Fauna Sanctuary, a haven for 13 traumatized chimps rescued from biomedical labs, Westoll blended smoothies and played with the apes, witnessing an astonishing resilience as they learned to trust and interact once more. His moving book shows that ‘no matter what kind of trauma we’ve gone through, we all have the capacity to recover and to help others heal.”
-People Magazine

“A distressing, deeply important exposé of the suffering we have inflicted on our closest animal relation, the ethics of animal testing, and finally (and happily) a heartening picture of Fauna Sanctuary’s commitment and compassion.”
Publishers Weekly

“An affecting work about our genetic cousin.”

“Generous and deeply affecting. . . The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary is many things: a tribute to an often-misunderstood creature; a study of a gutsy woman determined to protect the species; and a keen inquiry into man’s ambivalent relationship with his nearest relative in the animal kingdom.”
The Walrus

“Only the most intransigent heart will be unmoved by Andrew Westoll’s account of his time spent at Quebec’s Fauna Sanctuary. . . Appealing to our hearts and minds in equal measure, Westoll builds his case so convincingly it’s hard not to see the potential failure of the [Great Ape Protection Act] as a failure of humanity.”
Quill & Quire (starred review)

“It is from within the stunning beauty of [Westoll’s] narrative that the archetypes of genuine bravery, discovery, and transcendence slowly but surely come into view… With compassion and comic flair, he introduces us to the non-human primates who, he would say, are the real heroes of his tale….Knowing that he’s taking his readers on a difficult journey, Westoll worries at one point that the “truth will devour you.” But, because the book is also so beautiful, we can respond with the other side of that possibility: that the truth can likewise set you free. It is perhaps the prerequisite for setting others free, too…It’s hard to put this biography down, as Westoll leads us deep into the wonders of Fauna Sanctuary…Here, he offers us the keys to the primate kingdom, to which we’ve always belonged and in which we can glimpse God in the face of a chimpanzee gratefully drinking a delicious purple smoothie.”
-Winnipeg Free Press

The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary will naturally garner the instant attention of not just chimp crusaders, but animal lovers internationally. Above all else, it is an intelligent examination of our changing relationship with the animals we share this world with, and our undeniable obligation to untangle an unfortunate past.”
Postmedia News

“Reading this book it’s impossible not to come to care for these animals. ”
National Post

“Andrew Westoll provides an opera of dramatic events, heart-rending tragedies and uplifting triumphs. For anyone interested in empathy and recovery, his book is required reading”
The Globe and Mail

“Westoll’s writing is best when describing Fauna’s residents and the conflicted relationships they forge with their human caregivers, both in the lab and in the sanctuary. Expect to cry in the obvious places […] but keep the tissues close by at all times. Heartbreak is never very far away.”
-Cleveland Plain Dealer

“The strength of Westoll’s book lies in the way he expertly weaves three essential elements into one coherent call for an end to chimpanzee abuse in medical labs.”
The Montreal Gazette

“A new book, The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary: A Story of Resilience and Recovery by Andrew Westoll, offers a unique look into the lives of mistreated animals, particularly thirteen rescued lab chimps recovering from physical and emotional trauma. It’s a haunting true-tale tinged with hope as the liberated chimps now learn to live again with love, care and a sense of community so essential to the well-being of such complex, social creatures.”
– Seattle Post Intelligencer


Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 2011

HarperCollins Canada, May 2011

University of Queensland Press, Australia/NZ, May 2011

Czarne, Poland


WINNER of the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction

Finalist for the 2012 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing

National Bestseller

Longlisted for CBC’s Canada Reads 2012

Finalist for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction

Shortlisted for the CBA Libris Award for Non-fiction Best Books of 2011: Top 100 Editors’ Picks

A Quill & Quire Best Book of 2011

A Globe and Mail Best Book 2011

Shortlisted for the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction 2012

Other Books by Andrew Westoll