From Animal Issues, Volume 39 Number 4, Winter 2008/09
Life for many of the primates prior to their arrival at the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary is one of social isolation from other monkeys. Whether it be a monkey kept as a “pet” and raised in a human household or a monkey singly housed in a small, barren, metal cage in a laboratory, probably the most negative factor that impacts on their emotional and psychological well-being is the lack of social contact, whether it be in the form of playing or grooming, with others of their kind.
While most of the country seems to have suffered severe winter storms over the holiday period, we got off lightly with just a couple of cool days before the temperatures hit the 80s again. What a difference the sunshine makes to the monkeys’ daily lives (and to us humans)! They so enjoy just soaking it up, lying around lazily, sleeping and grooming each other.
A varied week on the weather front. On Sunday, the monkeys were enjoying a sunny afternoon as temperatures hit the 80s. By Monday morning, however, that had all changed. The sky was cloudy as the temperature dipped to around 50. It won’t be too long, however, before the temperatures rise again. The sun usually shines all year round here in South Texas.
A busy week for the Sanctuary. Work has started on the construction of a much needed utility building. This will help make day-to-day work at the Sanctuary much smoother. The building will contain a new monkey food preparation area.
Loekey is settling well into his new surroundings. He has already started to have contact with the three boys in the enclosure next to him — McKenzie, Ollie, and Oscar. Oscar is the boss with a rather laid back attitude, although he does enjoy a game of chase and tag and is strongly protective of McKenzie. Ollie is the lowest ranking in the group. He really enjoys playing on the swing and often spends long periods swinging fast and high. Of the three, McKenzie is the most active and sociable and this past week I saw him grooming Loekey through the partition between the enclosures. This is encouraging.
Rain has been forecast for the past few days, but so far the Sanctuary remains dry. Unfortunately we have not had good rainfall for many months.
A great food delivery this week — lots of avocados and strawberries. The monkeys enjoy both fruits, but the snow monkeys have a particular liking for strawberries. After a satisfying feast of strawberries, bright red lips are the norm.
Art, one of the longtail macaques who came to us from a laboratory earlier in the year, has started to wait for me at the gate to the longtail enclosure. Although nervous, his curiosity (and hunger, no doubt) get the better of him as he looks to see what food I am taking in each day for the group. He especially likes leafy lettuce and peanuts, so I try to make sure I have both. He also follows me around, at a “safe” distance, making appearances at the various food drop-off points. Art is one of the older longtails and spent 11 years in the laboratory before coming to us. Eleven years in a small metal cage and now he has the companionship of others in five acres of lush vegetation!
This week we continued with the introductions of one of the mixed groups of former “pet” macaques that include India, the young pig-tailed macaque. Over the past few weeks, we have gradually introduced various combinations of the individuals — the goal being to establish one large social group of seven individuals. The final introduction involved direct contact for the first time between Zach and Teddy (the two rhesus macaques in the group) and Joey, a crested black macaque.
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