History of The Sanctuary


The original inhabitants of the Sanctuary were a troop of snow monkeys who arrived in Texas from Japan in 1972. They were originally part of a troop that had resided in the Arashiyama forest and had been observed by behaviorists since 1954. Around 1970, a group split away from the main troop and moved into the Kyoto suburbs in search of food. Because some residents viewed these animals as "pests," the decision was made to relocate them. A concerned American citizen agreed to pay to transport the group to Encinal, Texas, where a sanctuary was then started.

The first few years following relocation were very difficult for the snow monkeys, who had to learn to adapt to a desert-like environment consisting of cactus and mesquite, far different from their cool, mountainous home in Japan. In Japan, the monkeys swam in thermal pools to keep themselves warm during the freezing winter months; in Texas, they had to swim in cooler water during the hot, humid summers. However, adapt they did, with great success. During the following years the troop of monkeys had to be relocated on two more occasions until they finally ended up on a site in Dilley, Texas, that became known as the Texas Snow Monkey Sanctuary.

In December 1999, the Animal Protection Institute took over the management of the Texas Snow Monkey Sanctuary. Since that time, the Sanctuary has expanded to become a haven for rescued monkeys. Today, the 186-acre site near Dilley, Texas, is called the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary. In addition to the group of snow monkeys who were descendants of the Japanese arrivals, the Sanctuary also provides refuge for other snow monkeys and other species of macaques, vervets, and baboons who were rescued from roadside zoos, research laboratories, and private possession, and who had lived most of their lives in cages. Our facility is unique among other U.S. sanctuaries in that it is one of the very few to provide a free-ranging environment that allows the majority of the primates to live as natural a life as possible with a minimum amount of human intervention.

Prior to arriving at the Sanctuary, the rescued primates had been severely deprived of their social and psychological needs; some continue to be psychologically damaged from their interactions with humans. They had not been allowed to behave freely as their species dictates and many initially had difficulty forming relationships with others of their kind. Born Free USA is committed to the rehabilitation of these individuals by providing an enriched and stimulating environment and encouraging pair and group living. Fortunately, their instinctive behavior and natural resilience help the monkeys eventually adjust to living "freely" and to spending their remaining years among others of their kind.