Why a Sanctuary


Nonhuman primates are intelligent animals with complex behavioral and social needs. Companionship, group living, space, and an enriched environment are all important for their physiological, behavioral, and psychological health. Each year, however, tens of thousands of nonhuman primates suffer at the hands of humans. They are kept as "pets," used as research "subjects," exhibited as "specimens" in traditional zoos, or simply used as "attractions" in roadside zoos. Exploited and abused, they too often lead lonely, miserable lives, kept in conditions that compromise their physical and mental well-being.

The Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary provides a safe, permanent home to nonhuman primates rescued from exploitation and abuse including:

The Trade in Exotic Animals

The trade in exotic animals is a multi-billion dollar industry. Every year, thousands of captive wild animals, including nonhuman primates, are forced into this trade from a variety of sources. These animals are either "surplus" from various roadside menageries and other zoos; are sold at auctions, pet stores, or over the Internet; or come from backyard breeders. The life of a captive wild animal is one of exploitation and suffering. Unfortunately, our laws provide them minimum protection.

Primates as "Pets"

Exotic animals such as nonhuman primates belong in their natural habitat and not in the hands of private individuals as "pets," where they are often raised as if they were human children, without the companionship of others of their own kind. Being raised in isolation from other primates will result in neurotic and disturbed behavior.

By their very nature, nonhuman primates are wild and potentially dangerous and do not adjust well to a captive environment. On reaching adulthood, they begin to exhibit unpredictable behavior. They become territorial and aggressive. They tend to bite to defend themselves and to establish dominance.

As a result, their "owners," rather than recognizing that no type of care in a captive setting will be adequate, will often try to change the nature of the animal. Their efforts can include confinement in small, barren cages; isolation; chaining; beating "into submission"; or mutilations such as tooth removal. Once the primates have passed their "cute and cuddly" stage, their "owners" often find they can no longer cope with their "pet." The animals may then be handed over to zoos or sanctuaries to spend the remainder of their long lives, sometimes as many as 40 years, in continued captivity. Some may even be abandoned or simply killed. These problems will continue until laws are passed banning the breeding and private possession of nonhuman primates.

Primates in Zoos

In zoos, primates are treated as "exhibits" and "attractions." Rather than fostering a sense of respect and compassion for these individuals, zoo displays usually lead people to see the animals as a source of entertainment or amusement. Young primates draw crowds, but as the animals become older and lose their appeal, they may be transferred or sold to other facilities, so that there is always room to have youngsters available for "viewing." This in-house breeding creates surplus animals who may subsequently end up in roadside zoos or traveling shows.

Primates at Wildlife "Attractions"

Thousands of wildlife "attractions" exist throughout the United States, ranging from backyard menageries to so-called "sanctuaries" to drive-through parks, most of which demand a fee for entry. Disguised as conservation, educational, or rescue facilities, roadside zoos and menageries are often involved in the commercial exploitation of the animals in their care. Some facilities will call themselves "sanctuaries," when in reality they breed and trade animals and act as dumping grounds for zoos and other facilities and from animal "owners."

Such facilities can be responsible for some of the worst abuse of captive wild animals. They often fail to provide animals with adequate care and a suitable environment. With little opportunity for mental stimulation and physical exercise, these animals frequently develop abnormal and self-destructive behaviors that may include pacing, rocking, swaying, bar biting, and self-mutilation.

Captive wild animals may also be put on public display in venues such as shopping malls, where they are forced to amuse groups of people, while their "owners" sell photos and charge presentation fees.

Primates in Research

Every year, thousands of primates are used in research in the U.S. Many are bred at facilities within the U.S., while others are imported from countries such as Mauritius, Indonesia, the Philippines, China, and Africa. Some of these primates are trapped in the wild. Torn from their families and jungle homes, they are kept at holding centers before being shipped as cargo, often on passenger airlines, across the world. It is a brutal trade. The capture, caging, and transport inflict great suffering on these highly intelligent and sensitive animals.

In the laboratory, primates are kept in conditions that fail to meet their complex social and behavioral needs. Often housed on their own in bare, metal cages for many years, they are subjected to procedures such as surgery or ingestion of toxic substances that are likely to cause them distress, pain, and suffering. In addition to ethical objections to vivisection, there are also strong scientific arguments against the use of primates in research. Because of differences between humans and other primates, as well as the unnatural conditions in which the primates must live, the results of such research cannot be safely extrapolated to humans.

 Learn how you can help exploited and abused nonhuman primates.