Tim Ajax

Sanctuary Blog

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!

Sanctuary Stay — Part 3

Born Free USA’s Lorry Marvin Exchanges Smiles With an ‘Ex-Pet’ Monkey

Published: 10/18/10

Come walk in my shoes as I tell another tale from my visit to the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary.

Upon our arrival on a muggy Sunday afternoon in Dilley, Texas, all I wanted to do was run to the nearest enclosure and start snapping pictures of these captivating monkeys! I stifled my excitement long enough to introduce myself to the very generous and accommodating sanctuary staff, drop my luggage in the pleasantly air-conditioned volunteer trailer, and change into clothing more suitable for the uneven earth and blaring sun. Then it was time!

After months of only reading about Joey, Carly, Khy, Shawshank and Mig, my husband and I were treated to a guided tour by the sanctuary’s director, Tim Ajax. It was especially engrossing to listen to stories about monkeys who had been humans’ “pets” before becoming residents of this beautiful and thriving sanctuary. Each new resident faced unique challenges in learning how to adapt to natural primate behavior and a natural environment.


Primates are highly social, intelligent animals with complex behavioral and psychological needs. When they are raised by a human, several problems can arise. In a lonely human home, away from others of the same kind, a primate does not learn how to display or interpret the primate body language and verbal communication required for normal interaction between monkeys. Additionally, these animals sometimes were not fed proper foods, nor cared for in a physical surrounding fitting to their developmental and psychological needs. Years of life without socialization, proper diet and proper housing can lead to primates who are malnourished, maladjusted and who display behavior that is abnormal and unhealthy.

Joey, a crested black macaque, is one unique primate! He came to the edge of his enclosure and seemed to smile, as would a human, at us, his admirers. It was a stark contrast to the sanctuary primates who had not been pets. He was careful not to look into our eyes. Joey’s roommates are also ex-pets and even after years of rehabilitation displayed similar, if not more unsettling, behavior. Several ex-pet monkeys bite their own limbs as though they are those of an attacking outsider. I also witnessed another ex-pet monkey lightly bumping his head against a tree. These monkeys do not cause themselves physical harm, but these actions do illustrate what can happen as a result of living for years in an unfitting environment.

Joey and his fellow ex-pet roommates have found a proper and fulfilling home here at the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary, and with time have learned their own ways of communicating with each other and living together in a more natural setting. Seeing a happy ending for these lives that began so precariously brought home the importance of this place of safety and further inspired me to continue to share this message and gather support for this noble cause.

If you too would like to help the monkeys, adopt a primate or donate today!

Background: Because our sanctuary is not open to the public, I want to share a few highlights of the amazing (and back-breaking) work that goes on down there with a series of blogs. And if you want to help the monkeys, consider a donation to the sanctuary. I can say for sure that every cent goes a long way to help give our sanctuary residents the best care possible!

As a Development Associate with Born Free USA, I spend a lot of time indoors, behind a computer. One of my responsibilities here is to help raise money for our 500 primates living as free as they can be at the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary – so I jumped at the chance to get outside (in the hot Texas heat, no less) to help our sanctuary team care for the primates for a week. It was hard work, but so rewarding!

Read Lorry's other blogs!

Sanctuary Stay — Part 1

Sanctuary Stay — Part 2

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