Tim Ajax

Aug 2011 Rescue

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!

Basement Baboon Finds New Home at Our Sanctuary

Published: 09/02/11

(The following was written by Samara Kalk Derby for Madison.com (Wis.) and was posted on Aug. 30, 2011.)

Monkey, the 3-year-old baboon that had been living in an East Side laundry room until it was surrendered to the Dane County Humane Society earlier this month, has found a new home at a primate sanctuary in Texas.

On Monday morning, the animal was transferred to the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary, located on 186 acres in Dilley, south of San Antonio. The sanctuary is home to more than 500 primates, many of which were rescued from research laboratories, roadside zoos, and private owners.

The animals - macaques, vervets, and baboons - live in free-range enclosures with minimal human interference.

Humane Society workers initially suspected that the Madison baboon's canine teeth had been removed, which could put it at risk if it were placed with other baboons. But during a recent health inspection, it appeared the animal's adult canines will still come in, spokeswoman Gayle Viney said.

There are 13 other baboons in a 2.5 acre enclosure where Monkey will be housed, said sanctuary director Tim Ajax. The animal will be placed next to the other baboons and will be monitored to see how the other baboons react to him, Ajax said.

"Integration could take months or more than a year," he said. "Every one of them is an individual with preferences and the ability to make choices, so we'll let them dictate when the time is right."

For the past month, the baboon had been biding his time in a reinforced dog kennel at the Humane Society while the organization worked to find him a permanent home.

The Vilas Zoo helped cage and care for the baboon, since the Humane Society was not normally equipped to house such an animal. But the zoo, which has orangutans and chimpanzees, was not in a position to care for the animal long-term, said Jim Hubing, the zoo's director.

"We chose the other great apes, the other primates," Hubing said. "That was done many years ago. We don't plan ahead to add any exhibits for them. There isn't any exhibit space. This is a highly evolved, very social primate. He needs to be with other baboons, not by himself."

The Humane Society tried to keep the animal busy and engaged by making sure there were ropes, hammocks, and other things to occupy its attention. But as the weeks went by, Monkey became less interested in those distractions.

"He is beginning to get more stressed," Viney said last week. "We look forward to moving him to a better location soon."

Humane Society veterinarian Dr. Erica Smedberg, assisted by Vilas Zoo veterinarian Dr. Mike Petersen, neutered the baboon and ran a battery of tests and other medical procedures required for its transfer. The baboon's tuberculosis and hepatitis tests came back negative.

"He's in excellent shape. He was a very well cared-for animal," said Petersen, who worked with baboons some 20 years ago when they lived in the zoo.

Only a few select people were able to go into the baboon's cage to do the cleaning and feeding, particularly before it was tested for illness or disease, Viney said.

No fine for owner

Patrick Comfert, the lead worker for Animal Services of Public Health Madison and Dane County who took the animal from the man living on Camden Road, would not disclose the man's name. But he said the man was not fined.

The man had the animal for a month or two, Comfert said, and at first denied having it until animal services went to his house with a search warrant on Aug. 3.

"He was very compliant in turning the baboon over and stated that he didn't intend to have it in the first place," Comfert said.

Exotic animals, while not typical, are becoming more common.

"We do get alligators fairly frequently. We get large snakes every now and then," Comfert said. "This is definitely our first baboon. We have had smaller monkeys like capuchins come in."

While possession of exotic animals is prohibited in the city of Madison, Dane County does not have an ordinance banning such animals.

"If the baboon had been in the county, it's not likely we would have been able to take him," Comfert said.

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