The WAO Group
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!
On Nov. 21, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division, ruled in favor of the transfer of 113 animals — 112 macaques and one baboon — from the now defunct Wild Animal Orphanage (WAO) in San Antonio, Texas, to The Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary in Dilley, Texas. This is thought to be one of the largest rescues of macaques in history.
According to Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA, “Born Free USA has worked for months with WAO and the Texas Attorney General’s office to find a way to help these animals. This is a heartbreaking situation particularly for this large group of primates who would otherwise likely be euthanized without our humane intervention. Every day wild animals need to be rescued from ‘pet owners,’ laboratories, roadside zoos and other abusive circumstances, but this time it is about a large sanctuary having to shut down completely — and demonstrates just how challenging wildlife rescue work is. Wild animals belong in the wild and the scenarios that create the need for sanctuaries should never exist at all. Sanctuaries are filled to capacity, lack adequate funding, and yet are most captive animals’ only hope for a humane future.”
(Video of macaques living at Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary is available at http://www.bornfreeusa.org/sanctuary/videoindex; still photographs are available at http://www.bornfreeusa.org/sanctuary/galindex. All images are “Courtesy of Born Free USA.”)
On Aug. 31, 2010, the Wild Animal Orphanage announced the decision to dissolve “due to overpopulation, underfunding and inadequate housing for the animals.” According to the WAO board, they were in a “do-or-die situation.” WAO had to find placement for 112 macaques, 55 tigers, 14 African lions, 16 chimpanzees, six wolf hybrids and 20 baboons. Sanctuaries were found for all of these animals, in part through the leadership of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), of which Born Free USA is a member.
Finding a home for the 112 primates presented the biggest challenge. In addition to the number of macaques involved, there are other highly complex issues including:
- Their sensitive social groupings — 12 different animal groupings with troops as small as three and as large as 25.
- The age range — from a 1 year old to some in their 30s.
- Many physical health conditions, from blindness to cataracts to skin and age-related bone issues.
- A multitude of mental health issues many of the monkeys still suffer from as a result of the effects of their captivity prior to their rescue by WAO.
At the spacious 186-acre Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary, these 113 animals (112 macaques and one baboon) will join the current 532 primate residents and live as freely as possible. Their relocation from the WAO in San Antonio to Born Free USA in Dilley will take place in approximately three to four months after each animal is thoroughly medically tested, sterilized and tattooed, and the Born Free USA facility and staff are completely ready for their highly sensitive transition.
Among the macaques is Fifi, a rhesus macaque who had been a “pet” in a tiny cage in her “owner’s” New York City basement. Her tail was amputated, probably to facilitate putting diapers on her. Chappy, a crab-eating macaque, was a biomedical research subject. The stress of life in the lab led him to pluck his body bald. Dex, a stumptail macaque, also exploited for research, has only his thumb and index finger on his right hand. Fifi, Chappy and Dex, along with Maddie, Leo Stiggy and dozens of others, all suffered at the hands of humans before they found sanctuary at WAO.
The Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary is already preparing for the 113 new arrivals and building several structures and enclosures. While Born Free has, as part of the bankruptcy agreement with WAO, already secured much of the funding needed to create the new enclosures, a great deal of additional support is needed for the ongoing care of the monkeys who can live to over 30 years old — additional caregivers, food, veterinary services will need to be covered.
To learn more about the sanctuary, make a donation or “adopt” a primate, visit www.bornfreeusa.org/sanctuary.
Born Free USA (BFUSA) is a nationally recognized leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation and public education, BFUSA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and destructive international wildlife trade. BFUSA’s Primate Sanctuary in Texas is home to more than 500 primates rescued from laboratories, roadside zoos and private possession. BFUSA brings to America the message of “compassionate conservation,” the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film “Born Free,” along with their son Will, now CEO of both organizations. BFUSA’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally.