by Tim Ajax, Director
Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary
Some people monkey around a little, some people monkey around a lot, and then there's Tim. He's a prince among primates, presiding over hundreds of fellow bipeds in the often-brutal Texas outdoors. There's no ape escape for Tim and his crew, but no matter. They love to help macaques, baboons and vervets live out their lives with as much freedom as possible. And like peeling a banana, Tim's blogs take you to the good stuff inside — with a steady supplement of Texas weather updates, of course!
In many parts of the country, winter has already settled in for the season—but, at our Sanctuary in south Texas, it’s just now arriving. We had a few practice runs in November with some cold drizzle and near-freezing temps at night, and that gave the monkeys an opportunity to begin to acclimate to cooler weather. Now, with a major storm now bearing down on us, it’s safe to say that winter is officially here.
We face many challenges in life, from physical discomforts to emotional anguish to life-threatening diseases, to name just a few. We seem to spend an ever-increasing amount of time insulating ourselves from those experiences – and from the natural world we reside in. We worry ourselves sick with how to get ahead, avoid conflict or keep our egos intact. We over-medicate, under-appreciate and act as if the very environment which allows us to flourish exists for nothing more than our amusement and short-term gain. Within that context it's easy to understand how people can become isolated, distrustful and combative - and they are not alone: many animals, both wild and domestic, suffer unnaturally at our collective hands in a wide variety of ways and under many scenarios. Each day we're inundated with additional examples of our species' brutality towards other living beings and for animal (and people) lovers things can sometimes look very bleak.
Fortunately, we also have the capacity to demonstrate inspiring acts of compassion, empathy, grace, nurturing, and generosity. When I see Freeman amble across his enclosure to play with Buddy and Elvis, or watch Alice warm herself in the sun, or witness rhesus monkeys once used in research exploring their large, open enclosure for the first time, I am instantly reminded of all that's good about our species.
The Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary is home to more than 600 primates and, while the majority of the inhabitants are macaques, it is also home to 22 baboons. These incredible primates are notable not only for their distinct looks, but also for their unique personalities. Two of the most endearing characters are Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley, two young male baboons who seem to have a never-ending supply of energy and a predisposition for mischief. They are quick to investigate anything new, whether it’s something added to their enclosure or an unusual sound. No blade of grass, insect, or flower escapes their notice and subsequent harassment, to the point of wearing everything (and everyone) out around them. Fortunately, our newest baboon residents are much more relaxed and easy going.
Now that November has arrived, the weather is finally starting to cool down here in South Texas and everyone is enjoying the milder temperatures. The primates are even starting to grow out their thicker coats in preparation for the impending winter.
Last week, I told you about how school children in New Braunfels, Texas learned about primates and then dove in to help by decorating pumpkins for our Sanctuary residents. After the paint dried and our pumpkins were looking beautiful, they were transported to the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary in south Texas.
Since so much of our energy is occupied taking care of the incredible primates here at the Sanctuary, we sometimes lose sight of another very important goal: educating the public on the plight of primates in the wild and in captivity, especially about why they don't make good pets (and of course, the good work we do here at the Sanctuary). This past week, we took the opportunity to connect with our human neighbors at the New Braunfels Public Library in New Braunfels, Texas.
Over two and a half years ago (though it only seems like yesterday), Bella, a young female snow monkey, arrived at the Sanctuary. Though well cared for by her guardian, she had become intolerably aggressive toward other family members and was especially jealous of human females. Bella behaved the same way at the Sanctuary, getting along fine with the female caretakers until a human male came into view—and then becoming highly aggressive toward those females. She routinely fought with other monkeys through the fence, and depended on our daily interactions with her for self-assurance.
Click on image for larger version.
(Photograph by Tim Ajax)
We were more than a little nervous about the introduction. Elvis had been through a tremendous amount of upheaval and instability in his short life, and we weren’t certain that his soon-to-be-roommate would be accepting of him. Both of these primates are victims of the exotic “pet” trade and were stolen from their biological mothers when only a few days old. They were then unnaturally reared by humans who thought they were “cute.”