Last week after a 28-hour drive, a severely abused long-tailed macaque from Midland, MI, arrived at the 186-acre Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary in Dilley, TX, to begin a new life with more than 500 other primates. For 10 years the monkey, named JR — but renamed Freeman by Born Free USA staff — lived in a cage (45.5 inches tall, 36 inches long, 25.5 inches wide) weighted by cement blocks to keep him from getting out.
He had never been let out to exercise, was never bathed, and never had his cage cleaned. His few toys and blanket were covered in 6 inches of feces, and his cage was kept in a dark room with no sunlight or fresh air. His diet consisted of dog food and table scraps and at times his owners would get him high on marijuana and drunk on alcohol.
This is often the life of a primate kept as a “pet,” explains Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA, a leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. “Freeman’s unspeakably cruel situation is yet another example of the epidemic in this country that allows people to freely ‘own’ exotic wild animals as ‘pets.’ We are calling on Michigan — a state that does not even require ‘owners’ to keep permits for ‘pet’ primates — to once and for all ban the primate pet trade. Wild animals belong in the wild and it is never safe — for the animal or the public — to raise one as a pet. They cannot be tamed or domesticated, and caging or confining them is despicable.”
Sandy Hopkins of Midland first saw JR the macaque two years ago and was appalled at the cruelty he was subjected to. She was determined to do what she could to ease his suffering. She visited him, bringing treats and socializing with him while encouraging his “owners” to release him to a sanctuary or at least change his conditions. Finally, she was able to convince them to give up the monkey and she began her search for a sanctuary who would take him.
Tim Ajax, director of the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary, says, “This monkey was living a life of horror and we are doing everything we can to help him acclimate. Private ownership of exotic animals, especially primates, is a cruel business that starts with a baby being stolen from his or her mother for profit and often ends in a psychologically damaged animal forced to endure a life of isolation and misery. People who are frequently misled to believe that primates make good pets are often left to pick up the pieces when the cute baby animal they raised turns on friends and family members and becomes a danger to everyone in the community. In this case the owner had neither love for the monkey nor interest in picking up the pieces.”
Once Born Free USA made the arrangements — legal, logistical and medical — for the macaque’s new home, Hopkins volunteered to finish her rescue and personally transported him from Michigan to Texas at her own expense.
His trip went smoothly and upon arrival he was quickly removed from his filthy cage to clean new accommodations. According to Ajax, “Freeman is making rapid strides and adjusting to a proper diet. He now wants to be groomed, too! He looks out from his quarantine cage — where he will be for another two weeks — at all the other monkeys and is already imitating facial expressions and watching the staff work throughout the day. Soon he’ll be in larger quarters and we will start the process of properly integrating him with other monkeys, his nightmares banished forever.”
Roberts adds, “We are grateful to Sandy Hopkins, a passionate and caring woman who was determined to work to secure Freeman’s freedom.”
Unfortunately, the epidemic of exotic pets runs rampant in the United States. Born Free USA keeps an online database of incidents at www.bornfreeusa.org/database, which sheds light on this issue.
Born Free USA is a nationally recognized leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to the United States the message of “compassionate conservation” — the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film “Born Free,” along with their son Will Travers, now chief executive officer of both organizations. Born Free’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally.
Media Contact: Rodi Rosensweig, firstname.lastname@example.org, (203) 270-8929.