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Do or Die for the WAO 113

Born Free USA To Rescue More Than 100 Animals

Published 12/06/11
By Tim Ajax, Director, Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary

(This story appears in the fall/winter 2011 issue of Born Free USA's Animal Issues Digest.)

Fifi, a rhesus macaque, had been a "pet" in a tiny cage in her owner's New York City basement. Her tail was amputated, probably to facilitate putting diapers on her. Chappy, a crab-eating macaque, was a biomedical research subject; the stress of life in the lab led him to pluck his body bald. Dex, a stumptail macaque, also exploited for research, has only his thumb and index finger on his right hand.

Fifi and Chappy and Dex (and Maddie and Leo and Stiggy and dozens of other monkeys) all suffered from the start. But thanks to the caregivers at the Wild Animal Orphanage (WAO) in San Antonio, Texas, they were able to experience comparative freedom from their former abhorrent confinement.

We know all too well, running the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary every day, that nonhuman primates across the country need to be saved continually — from "pet" owners, from laboratories, from despicable roadside zoos. But what happens when the rescuers, and their animals, need rescue?

On Aug. 31, 2010, the WAO Board of Directors voted to dissolve the sanctuary "due to overpopulation, underfunding and inadequate housing for the animals." According to the WAO board, they were literally in a
"do or die situation."

Born Free USA has worked for months to see if we could find a way to help. We believe that no mission is impossible where animals' lives are concerned.

Born Free USA, the Texas Attorney General's office and WAO are now jointly submitting to the appropriate bankruptcy court a motion to permit the transfer of 112 macaques and one baboon from WAO to the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary. Under our care they will live as free a life as we can provide, thrive in groups, climb trees, feel sunshine, splash in ponds and live in peace.

WAO had quite a challenge on its hands, with 55 tigers, 14 African lions, 16 chimpanzees, six wolf hybrids and 20 baboons. Thankfully, all of the other animals found homes elsewhere relatively quickly, in part through the diligent leadership of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), which Born Free USA supports (and the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary is GFAS accredited).

But the primates present a special challenge, especially because of the sheer number of animals involved: 12 different animal groupings with troops as small as three animals and as many as 25; ages ranging from a 1-year-old to some in their 30s; and animals who are blind or have cataracts, have skin or age-related bone issues, or are in other ways suffering the effects of their former captive travails.

Born Free USA is already hard at work preparing for the new arrivals, in what is surely one of the largest single rescues of monkeys ever! We are hopeful that the court will approve our motion to rescue the animals by Thanksgiving.

And while we have already secured the funding needed to create their new enclosures, we need support to create an endowment that will allow us to fund all of their ongoing care — not to mention the costs of taking care of the 532 animals we already have!

We will need to hire additional caregivers to provide for these animals on a daily basis. At Born Free USA, the individual matters and we will make sure that the human primates on staff are the best in the business at attending to all of the animals' daily needs. We also will experience an increased food and veterinary budget to provide a healthy life for all of our new residents.

The sanctuary business is a hard business — not just for our Texas staff members who have to endure freezing cold winters and blistering hot summers providing for the monkeys — but for all of us trying to keep these animals alive and thriving. They have suffered enough. They deserve to be happy.

So when Born Free USA finds out that there are animals in need — macaques, baboons and any other species for which we have a high level of competency — we step up. Whether it's a lab, a home or a zoo. When someone tells us it's "do or die," we say, do.

Help us save the WAO macaques: Make a donation to support the new caregivers, food, and vet care. Send a donation to P.O. Box 22505, Sacramento, CA 95822; or go online at www.bornfreeusa.org and donate. Simply identify your donation as for the "WAO Rescue Mission."

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