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!

Today’s Lesson Is …

Published: 01/21/11


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.

With the rain came a period of eight days in a row without our seeing the south Texas sun. It got a little gloomy, but that never entirely stopped the monkeys from their energetic activities — although they did calm down to a dull roar. When the next cold front pushed through and the skies cleared to a beautiful azure, the normal games of tag, chase and groom (along with the obligatory squabbles and tree-shaking) resumed in full force. Monkeys will be monkeys, after all.

Earlier this month we decided to let Bo have a full encounter with Elsie, who with Maude and Jasmine live next to him. Elsie was continually seen sitting near Bo’s gate and we witnessed many interactions between them. Elsie would sit and extend her arms through the caging and Bo would sit down and, apparently unsure what he was supposed to do, would begin patting her arms and making conciliatory sounds with puckered lips. Elsie would tolerate the strange behavior for a short while and then, seemingly irked, she would move quickly away only to return and take up the same position an hour later. We’re not certain why Bo pats with his hands — we never see that behavior in the other monkeys — but it’s likely a result of the emotional instability and lack of proper development frequently seen in monkeys reared as pets.

Whether we understand the behavior or not Elsie wasn’t giving up on him, even when Bo showed aggression. She would scold him right back and then everything would calm down again. Because Elsie is a female and getting on in years she doesn’t have the large canines the males do, and with Bo still very young and his canines not fully developed we felt there was little chance of serious injury to either monkey if we tried them together. When the gate lifted, Elsie ran straight into Bo’s section and a huge hug complete with lots of chattering ensued, all the while Bo’s little hands patting rapidly on Elsie’s back and shoulders. Then Elsie turned and presented to Bo and a look of confusion seemed to pass over his face. He stared at her for long seconds, started patting her rump and then instinct kicked in. For those who may not know: Mounting in primates is done frequently and isn’t always sexual (and Bo is sterilized).

We thought they were off to a great start but a short while later Bo decided he was going to be a tough guy and Elsie, 16 years his senior, decided that no, he wasn’t. When the dust settled no one was hurt and Bo was duly in his place. Macaques are a matriarchal society and females rule — something Bo was never taught in his abnormal upbringing but has learned very well in a very short period of time.

We still let them in together under watchful eyes while Elsie continues her tutelage and Bo grows a little wiser every day.

Until next time …

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