TORONTO — Andrew Westoll has won this year’s $25,000 Charles Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction for The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary: A Canadian Story of Resilience and Recovery.
The book, about Westoll’s time volunteering at southwestern Quebec’s Fauna Sanctuary, which houses primates who are retired from biomedical research, was also up for the $40,000 B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction.
It was about 2 1/2 years ago that Westoll, who had previously travelled to South America to study monkeys, moved to the Fauna Sanctuary for several months to observe the care of chimps that had lived most of their lives in captivity. Some had been subjected to experimental surgeries and injected with HIV and hepatitis. It didn’t take long before Westoll developed a bond with them.
“What I was most amazed about when I first got there was that within days I was able to tell the chimpanzees apart, I could tell their voices apart after about a week of spending every day with them in the chimp house, and soon they just became like friends of mine,” Westoll, a former primatologist who also wrote the travel memoir The Riverbones, said in a recent interview.
Jurors for this year’s Charles Taylor Prize were journalist and author Stevie Cameron; Allan M. Brandt, author and dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University; and publisher Susan Renouf, principal of Abanaki Editorial and Consulting. They selected the five finalists from 115 titles.
Runners-up receive $2,000 and additional promotional support.
The other contenders were: Charlotte Gill’s Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe; Wade Davis’s Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest; J.J. Lee’s The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit; and Madeline Sonik’s Afflictions and Departures: Essays.
Last year’s winner was Charles Foran for Mordecai: The Life & Times.