Public Lecture Series with Dr. Sheri Speede
Cameroon’s Chimpanzee Champion: Dr. Sheri Speede
As chronicled in the award-winning memoir Kindred Beings
, published by Harper Collins in 2013, American veterinarian Sheri Speede traveled to Cameroon for the first time in 1997 to provide veterinary care to primates at an urban zoo. While in Cameroon she happened to befriend three caged adult chimpanzees being held for decades as tourist attractions at an Atlantic coast resort hotel. These sad chimpanzees, orphaned and taken from the forest as infants, had endured unfathomable deprivation and cruelty at the hands of humans, and yet Dr. Speede recognized a lingering hope, an insistent resilience, in their eyes that spoke to her profoundly. By late 1998, she had sold her interest in her veterinary practice, left her comfortable life in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon and moved to Cameroon to establish a chimpanzee sanctuary so she could take these chimpanzees back to the forest where she knew they belonged. Overcoming many seemingly insurmountable obstacles, operating on a shoestring budget, negotiating and collaborating with the Cameroon government and the village community, she founded Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center in Cameroon’s remote Mbargue Forest and brought the first rescued chimpanzees there in 1999. The Center became a founding member of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) in 2001.
Dr. Speede learned first hand about the threats facing chimpanzees and other endangered species in Central Africa, including the thriving illegal bushmeat trade, which as a by-product was producing the orphans she and her team were rescuing. Infant chimpanzees who survived the bloody hunts could be worth more alive than dead when sold within the country as pets or smuggled out to meet the growing demand for wildlife in Asia. As the years went by Dr. Speede and her team collaborated with Cameroon authorities to rescue many chimpanzees – some of whom had endured strict confinement and malnutrition for decades before their rescue and others who were confiscated and brought to Sanaga-Yong Center as babies. As she witnessed the tragedy firsthand, the fight to save the species from extinction became intensely personal.
Today the Center provides a permanent home to 72 chimpanzee orphans while it spearheads and supports wildlife law enforcement, habitat protection and conservation education. The Center plays a vital role in combating the illegal chimpanzee trade; without a sanctuary for illegally trafficked orphans, there could be no confiscations and no arrests or prosecutions of dealers. Other conservation programs and activities carried out by the Center include sustainable agriculture/agro-forestry in villages surrounding the Mbargue Forest, wildlife surveys in support of forest protection, intense lobbying for forest protection in the communities and at multiple levels of government, and facilitation of meetings between key people in government and community stakeholders. The Center’s relationship with the local community is intrinsically linked to the conservation initiatives, and it has engaged with and benefited the community in a variety of ways – employing local residents, creating a market economy for local farmers, building a school, providing emergency medical care and installing a small grain mill. The Center’s education outreach includes a new children’s book, Je Protégé les Chimpanzés (I Protect the Chimpanzees)
, narrated by a fictional Cameroonian boy, and a four-day classroom program targeting 5000 children per year.
Dr. Sheri Speede’s heartfelt journey, which is far from over, has been characterized at every turn by unique fortitude and determination. She speaks eloquently, passionately and with humor about the chimpanzees and her tireless work on their behalf.
Date: April 11th, 2016
Time: 6:00 pm Reception, 7:00 pm Lecture
Location: Club Headquarters, 46 East 70th Street, New York, NY, 10021
Member Ticket Price: $10
Guest Ticket Price: $25
Student Ticket Price:
$5 with a valid Student ID
Reservations are allotted on a first-come, first-serve basis.