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!
More baboon rescue images.
During the height of our heat wave we were alerted that a young male baboon needed a permanent home. He was living in a basement laundry room in Madison, WI, and the owner surrendered him to the Dane County Humane Society when he found out he would be cited and have to pay fines for each day he continued to keep the baboon. Though local law did not allow the animal control officer to outright confiscate the young baboon, the fine was large enough to persuade the young man who owned him to turn him over.
We had a difficult decision to make. First, this was a young baboon whose canines had been removed and we would be committing to his care for the rest of his life, which could be 30 years or more. Second, we had no way of knowing for certain if he could be integrated with our 13 other adult baboons living in their 2.5-acre enclosure. Third, times have been financially challenging — could we afford to take on another mouth to feed? Lastly, no other legitimate sanctuary that housed baboons could be found to take him; if he was going to have an opportunity to spend his life with other baboons, we were his only hope.
After several days of fretting over the issue we made the decision to take him. In the end it came down to what we do here at the sanctuary, and rescuing this individual exemplifies our commitment to Born Free USA’s mission. I contacted the Humane Society with the good news and we begin modifying one of the baboon lockout areas to accommodate a new resident who may have to spend a significant amount of time there before being released into the enclosure with the other baboons.
Meanwhile the Humane Society and its veterinarian were working closely with local primate experts to make sure the young baboon was receiving the best care possible under the circumstances. A dog run at the shelter was modified and enrichment was provided along with a proper baboon diet. The baboon named Monkey was already better off than where he was, and it was going to get even better. He passed his tests with flying colors and was vaccinated for tetanus and sterilized. All that was needed now was to make the trip down to south Texas — no small feat as he would have to be driven due to airline restrictions.
Once in his specially-made transport crate, Dustin and Mike from Dane County Humane Society loaded him into the air conditioned van for the long trip south. As he had for almost all of his time at the shelter, Monkey displayed an even temperament and a natural curiosity for everything going on around him. The trip was made in about 24 hours with only the drivers worse for wear.
After working with adult baboons (and some very big boys at that) I was amazed at how small the youngster looked when he launched himself out of the transport crate into his new home. Small but very, very fast! He quickly explored the area while Marvin, a hybrid baboon, watched through the adjoining fence. The youngster went right up to Marvin (who outweighs him by at least 50 pounds) and showed no fear. The two were quickly lip-smacking their greetings and then the agile youngster was off again running through and around the enclosure as if he couldn’t believe so much room could exist. After a while he settled down, climbed to the top of the safety area and just stared out over the sanctuary grounds, soaking in all the sights and sounds. We’ll never know exactly what he was experiencing at that moment but it was probably pretty overwhelming and hopefully filled with a sense of wonder and joy. (Watch the video of his release in the enclosure, see how Marvin reacts after an initial tussle, and enjoy Monkey devouring a peach.)
This young baboon is just beginning a new life filled with opportunities for exploration, discoveries and the well-being that comes with living as free as can be in the company of his own kind. With your help we’ll continue to be here for other lives in need of respite from a sometimes cruel world.