Power of One: South Shore woman's sanctuary spares chimpanzees from life in a lab
When a woman in Florida could not have a child of her own, she bought Rachel, a chimpanzee, and gave her bubble baths and dressed her in frilly clothing.
By the time she was three years old, Rachel was too big to be cared for as a pet, and her owners abandoned her at a research lab, where she was involved in a number of studies.
"A woman bought her, to substitute as a human child, because she couldn't have children of her own," said Gloria Grow who runs the South Shore chimpanzee sanctuary where Rachel now lives. "She thought she was a human child and then she basically went insane."
Established in 1997, Fauna is a haven for a variety of animals, with a focus on chimpanzees. Founder Grow and her team also work on the 200-acre space in Chambly, south of Montreal, to create a protected environment for Quebec's native flora and fauna.
Grow found her calling at an animal rights march in Washington D.C., where she learned of the plight of chimpanzees used for research.
Grow contacted a scientist, and offered her land as a sanctuary, taking in 15 chimps, eight of which had been used in HIV/AIDS testing.
Spared from life in a lab, the 12 chimps currently in Grow's care roam free on an island built for them on her land.
Now researchers and lab assistants seeking a haven for animals turn to Grow for help, meaning the sanctuary is now home to Theo the baboon, who was snatched from the wild as an infant
"He was supposed to be used in kidney transplant research," said Grow.
A rhesus macaque has two tattoos on her chest, marks that mean she was used in two separate studies: one for eye research and another for anorexia. She lost her tail and parts of her ears while fighting other monkeys for food.
Grow said she hasn't accepted a new animal in two years, and that sanctuaries that care for more than one species aren't doing their jobs properly.
Grow said she needs to focus on her chimps, like 21-year-old Jethro, who spent eight years living in a lab. With a life expectancy of between 40 and 60 years, caring for an animal like Jethro is a long-term commitment.
"What will we do to keep him happy for another 20 years? And what will we do when maybe he's one of the last few left?" said Grow.
Grow said she'd like to be a friend and protector to the animals, but knows she's more of a voluntary zoo keeper.
"As I leave at night, I know I'm locking them in and they can't get out. That's when I realize who I really am," she said.
Grow makes a difference not only by improving the lives of chimps, but also by raising awareness about the plight of animals who are not properly cared for.
"I'm the sanctuary director who wants to close my sanctuary. I want my business to go out of business."
For more information on Fauna, click here.