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!
From Animal Issues, Volume 40 Number 2, Summer 2009
I had just returned to the office when Daniel, our site manager, came in to tell me that Gilbert, one of the long-tailed macaques, was acting strangely. We found him in the back of the enclosure hunched over by himself and very still. This was bad news from the start as this ex-“pet” was normally very rambunctious and always had an enthusiastic greeting for us. Primates, like other wild animals, often “mask” any signs of illness and it wasn’t hard to tell that we had to help him and quickly.
We brought him inside and performed a physical examination — bad indeed. His little body was dehydrated, he had severe diarrhea, and he was suffering with a fever of 104. We immediately put him on IV fluids and antibiotics and took blood samples for evaluation. We placed him inside in a holding cage and waited. There wasn’t much else to do but continue supportive care and hope his young body and his zest for life could pull him through.
Gilbert sat listless in the cage for hours before finally being coaxed to drink some Gatorade. He was so very weak but he made a little grunt of satisfaction and that was enough to raise our hopes. After further consultation with the veterinarian we kept the same protocol and by the next day Gilbert was showing a little more interest in drinking and even managed to take in some yogurt. His temperature was down a couple of degrees and the dullness was leaving his eyes.
We opened the curtains in the room to let in more sunlight and saw, lined up in a jumbled row, his buddies from the enclosure. He immediately started vocalizing to them and became very excited. From that time on we kept the curtains open and the sliding door cracked and at least one of his friends was always keeping watch.
By the fourth day he wanted nothing to do with the yogurt and baby food so we started him on solid food and, of course, he went straight for the banana. By day 6 he was looking much better and his temperature was normal. He was starting to get restless and we decided it was time for him to go back outside with his group. But as we were moving the cage I saw blood in his stool; he was going to have to wait.
After three more days of antibiotics he was cleared to go out. He let us know that we had kept him long enough by bouncing his cage all the way across the room to the edge of the sliding door. Gilbert 10 lbs, cage 75 lbs.
In this occupation sometimes all our efforts seem to be less than enough. Other times are filled with a joy that moves you to the core. Watching Gilbert race out of the cage and run to each friend and hug and scream and race on to the next buddy was just such a wonderful moment. He played for hours, mock-fighting, playing tag, hugging and, finally, he settled in to catch up on some grooming.
He has forgiven us the poking, prodding, and confinement, and now cheerily greets us. Whatever he caught was pretty tough but it was no match for Gilbert and the close bond he maintains with his group.
You Can Help: We have many projects beginning soon, including new climbing structures in the 5-acre northwest enclosure, additional semi-natural enclosures, a water storage and filtration system, and more that will make life for the monkeys here even better. And our new projects don’t change the day-to-day care of our residents or any special needs — such as Gilbert required (his blood work alone was $300!). Help us by making a donation today.