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!
(Note from Tim: I wanted to share with you all a poignant message we received at the sanctuary over the weekend. There’s really nothing for me to say that adds anything of substance other than to state how privileged we feel to be doing what we’re doing and to have had a small part in bringing some joy to a wonderful child.)
I am writing to you in memory of a special little girl whose name was Summer. Summer came into my life a few short months ago as a student at my preschool. She was a captivating little girl at the age of 3. She stole my heart from the moment we met.
Sanctuary Director Reports From the Front Lines of a Deep Freeze
Wednesday evening, Feb. 2: We made it through the first night but tonight and tomorrow night will be a big test for everyone as the temps will drop even lower and the breeze will push the wind-chill temps into single digits. Thanks to Traci Hanson, Esteban Ramirez, Oscar Garcia, Juan Ramirez and Gabriel Ramirez we’ve been able to provide some extra heat for the vervets (Chango and Bridget don’t like to hang out in the same sleeping quarters as Charles and Bouf), replenish hay in all the critical areas including the baboons, install an extra heating mat for Bo and still manage to get everyone fed and cleaned. To help fuel the monkeys with the extra calories they’ll burn trying to stay warm we’ve gone to additional afternoon feedings of peanuts, sunflower seeds and monkey biscuits.
The new year is off to a great start as we finally had some reprieve from the three-month drought we’ve been suffering through. A little over 2 inches of rain fell over the course of about 10 days, and what little winter foliage there is this time of year immediately perked up, including the winter rye we planted in several of the enclosures. The rye is a great way to keep the soil in place during the winter to make sure that when spring arrives there’s a solid footing for all the new plant life that will keep the monkeys occupied throughout the day.
As we begin another year I think back over all that happened in 2010: the good, the unfortunate and the seemingly neutral, normal things that collectively make up the bulk of our days. Though the high and low events are the ones I remember best, and often judge our successes or failures by, I think it’s actually the simple, everyday occurrences that define us in the long run, and here at the sanctuary every day finds us focused on the basics of assuring a quality of life for those we’re humbled to serve.
Grinch, who is featured this month in our Adopt a Primate program, came to us from a university laboratory in the summer of 2006 along with 10 other bonnet macaques who were being retired. Born in 1997, Grinch is in the prime of his life and after only a few short months with us he quickly gained body mass and agility in his new outdoor environment.
As we move on into winter, the mesquite trees are going dormant and most of the native grasses have wasted away, relying on their hardy root system to bring them back next spring. This is the time of year the sanctuary looks barren and gray, but none of the wildlife, monkeys included, seems to notice. Red snow monkey faces peer out from between dried bunches of brown and gray grass and then disappear in a cloud of dust as another chase ensues.
Dr. Jane Goodall, perhaps the most famous, recognizable and influential name in primate protection, recently sent a personal note to Born Free USA Chief Executive Officer Will Travers and our friends and supporters about our work in Dilley, Texas, caring for 500 primates in need at the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary.
Our first cold front hit in late October and all the monkeys fared well. This is the time of year when their bodies start acclimating to cooler weather and shorter days. Their coats thicken and they become even more interested in fatty foods such as peanuts and sunflower seeds in an effort to lay on some extra insulation.