A former biologist and primatologist’s account of the lives of chimpanzees rescued from research labs is the 2012 winner of one the most prestigious awards for non-fiction in Canada, the C$25,000 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction.

Andrew Westoll’s book The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary: A Canadian Story of Resilience and Recovery, published by HarperCollins Canada, was praised by the jury for “brilliantly blending science and storytelling…. Pulled from decades of horrific lab conditions, rescued chimps live out the balance of their long lives in sanctuaries such as Fauna, cared for and loved by an extraordinary group of people. Westoll deftly draws the reader into the wild day-to-day ride of life with the Fauna chimps and soon their Otherness falls away. Through his lens, the chimps are revealed as the individuals they are, with all their foibles, damage, and possibility — and the reader’s world view shifts on its axis. Heart-rending and heart-warming, this is a stunning and important work of art and documentary and science.”

The jurors, author and academic Allan M. Brandt, author and journalist Stevie Cameron and publishing consultant Susan Renouf, chose Westoll’s work from 115 submissions from 35 publishers. The four other finalists each received C$2,000. The finalists were: Wade Davis for Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest (Knopf Canada), Charlotte Gill for Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe (Greystone Books in partnership with the David Suzuki Foundation), JJ Lee for The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son and a Suit (McClelland & Stewart), and Madeline Sonik’s Afflictions and Departures: Essays (Anvil Press).

Westoll’s first book, The Riverbones, (McClelland & Stewart) is a travel memoir set in the jungles of Suriname, where he once lived as a monkey researcher. He now writes while working at the University of Toronto.