Jacky was one of the first, and certainly one of the saddest, chimpanzees former Portland veterinarian Sheri Speede ever met. Jacky was an adult male chimpanzee, in his late 30s, and he’d been kept in a roughly 6 x 6 cage for most of his life at a hotel in Cameroon. For some of that time, other chimpanzees were housed in adjoining cages. They were all clearly unhappy but Jacky had hurt hotel employees and was widely thought to be insane. He would regularly beat himself and engage in other abnormal behavior.
Speede said it was his plight that made her sure that her future was in Africa, and that she simply had to try to improve the lives of these primates. In her book Kindred Beings, she tells the story of how she moved from Portland to Cameroon, started In Defense of Animals-Africa, and set up a chimpanzee sanctuary there. She describes a sometimes harrowing process working with the Cameroon government — and in at least one instance, armed officers— as well as local villagers to try to rescue these primates and stop their being poached for “bushmeat.” She says while things have improved in Cameroon for chimpanzees, their meat remains valuable and young chimps are still left orphaned.
Do you have experience working with chimpanzees? Have you read Kindred Beings? What questions do you have for Sheri Speede?