Born in a working class neighborhood in Jackson, Mississippi, Sheri Speede was aware at an early age that she wanted to work with animals. She qualified as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at Louisiana State University and began practicing in 1985.
Moving to the Portland, Oregon area in 1988, Dr. Speede soon became a partner in Pacific Veterinary Hospital, a successful southwest Portland practice. She served as president of the Portland Veterinary Medical Association and co-founded the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon, a non-profit organization dedicated to humanely reducing the population of feral cats through spaying and neutering. She sold her interest in the veterinary practice in 1995 so she could commit her time to animal activism.
As Northwest Director of In Defense of Animals from 1995 to 1998, Dr. Speede advocated for companion animals, as well as victims of biomedical research, factory farms and circuses. In addition, she was able to provide veterinary care to animals in sanctuaries, including primates in Cameroon, Africa. Her two trips to Cameroon in 1997 soon changed the course of her life.
For 13 years, from 1998 to 2011, Dr. Speede lived in Cameroon full-time. With a mission to ensure that endangered chimpanzees and gorillas survive in their natural habitats, she founded Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center to work in collaboration with the government of Cameroon. At the sanctuary, located in Cameroon’s Mbargue Forest, Dr. Speede and her staff care for chimps orphaned by the illegal ape meat trade. Dr. Speede now splits her time between Cameroon and the United States, leading efforts to secure the future of chimpanzees at the sanctuary, as well as those living free in Cameroon’s forests.