In September 2008 Dorothy, a female chimp in her late forties, died of congestive heart failure at Cameroon's Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center. A photo of Dorothy's funeral, in which Dr. Sherri Speede was cradling Dorothy's head while her family of chimpanzees looked on, went viral after being published in National Geographic. The image was subsequently covered in hundreds of media outlets on television, in newspapers, and on blogs, deeply touching people around the world while showing once and for all that animals do indeed have feelings.
Dr. Sherri Speede is the founder/director of In Defense of Animals–Africa and Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center. Now she gives us Kindred Beings, a touching and scientifically compelling memoir that follows the chimpanzee's life from the time Sheri met her while Dorothy was tethered on a chain at Luna Park Hotel in 1999 until her death nine and a half years later at Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center. In Kindred Beings, Dr. Speede describes her relationships with Dorothy and other members of her adopted chimpanzee family, and their relationships with one another. She demonstrates that chimpanzees, like humans, are capable of a broad spectrum of emotional behaviors. Dorothy was consistently kind, gentle, and forgiving. Along the way, Dr. Speede candidly reveals her own struggles as a stranger within a country and culture that were so different from what she had known.
Books like Kindred Beings, which bring attention to the complex emotional lives of chimpanzees, can increase concern for their struggle to survive. But while this is a story about chimpanzees, it is also Dr. Speede's story. Major events in her personal life unfold in her story of Africa and run parallel to the development of Sanaga-Yong Center.
Sherri Speede qualified as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at Louisiana State University and began practicing in 1985. Moving to the Portland, Oregon area in 1988, she soon became a partner in Pacific Veterinary Hospital, a successful southwest Portland practice. She sold her interest in the veterinary practice in 1995 so she could commit herself full time to animal activism. Dr. Speede lived in Cameroon full-time from 1998 to late 2011. During this time, she collaborated with the Cameroon Government to found the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center, a forested home for orphans of the illegal ape meat trade, while she led conservation programs aimed at saving chimpanzees and gorillas from extinction. With Edmund Stone, she established In Defense of Animals–Africa (IDA–Africa) as the U.S. base of support for the work in Cameroon. Currently, splitting her time between Cameroon and the United States, she serves as Director of IDA–Africa and Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center.