The happy ending of a two-year saga for 106 macaques and one baboon is finally here. On Wednesday (July 25) the first group of these animals — 10 stump-tailed macaques — are scheduled to be transported from their former home at the now-closed Wild Animal Orphanage (WAO) in San Antonio to their new home at the 186-acre Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary, about an hour away.
According to Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA, “Last year, Born Free USA worked for months with The Wild Animal Orphanage and the Texas Attorney General to find a way to help these animals. If we didn’t step in with a plan, this large group of primates would likely have been euthanized. Since finalizing the details in November 2011, our sanctuary has spent the past eight months building proper facilities and preparing for our new residents. Their new home is ready and we are eager to get them here and help them in their transition.”
On Aug. 31, 2010, the WAO announced the decision to dissolve the sanctuary “due to overpopulation, underfunding and inadequate housing for the animals.” According to the WAO board, they were in a “do or die situation” and they had to find placement for more than 100 macaques, 55 tigers, 14 African lions, 16 chimpanzees, six wolf hybrids, and 20 baboons. Sanctuaries were found for all of these animals, in part through the leadership of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), of which Born Free USA is a member.
But finding a home for the primates presented the biggest challenge. In addition to the number of macaques involved, there are other highly complicated issues including: their sensitive social groupings — 12 different animal groupings with troops as small as three and as large as 28; the age range — from under 1 year old to some in their 30s; many physical health conditions from cataracts to skin and age-related bone issues; and a multitude of mental health issues many still suffer from as a result of their captivity prior to their life at the WAO.
At the spacious Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary, according to Tim Ajax, director of the sanctuary, “these animals will join the current 532 primate residents and live in the best enclosures we can provide.”
Now that they have all been thoroughly medically tested, sterilized and identified, and the Born Free USA facility and staff are ready for their transition, the moves are schedule to start — initially in four groups, from July 25 through Aug. 17.
Ajax, who is coordinating and overseeing the entire move, says, “This is a very delicate move with many challenges for the animals and our staff. We are excited about the opportunity to assist them and anxious to get our new residents acclimated and comfortable, while also taking great care of our existing 500 animals.”
Roberts adds, “Every day wild animals need to be rescued from ‘pet owners,’ laboratories, roadside zoos, and other abusive circumstances, but this time it is about a large sanctuary having to shut down completely — a place where these animals were already once saved. Wild animals belong in the wild and these scenarios should never exist at all. Sanctuaries are filled to capacity, costly to run, and are the only aid we can give these animals.”
Among the more than 100 primates is Chappy, a crab-eating macaque, who was a biomedical research subject. The stress of life in the lab led him to pluck his body bald. Dex, a stump-tail macaque also used in research, has only his thumb and index finger on his right hand. Chappy and Dex, along with Maddie, Leo, Stiggy and dozens of others, all suffered at the hands of humans before they found initial sanctuary at the WAO.
The first group of 10 stump-tailed macaques being transported to the sanctuary were originally retired from a large university research center.
To learn more about the sanctuary, make a donation or “adopt a primate,” visit www.bornfreeusa.org/sanctuary.
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.