Tim Ajax

Jun 2012 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!

JR Becomes a Freeman

Published: 06/01/12

Extra food and water were packed for the long trip and there wasn’t a single doubt in Sandy’s mind about what lay ahead of them: a no-rest, grueling, 28-hour drive from Michigan to South Texas. Accompanied by her friend Ruth, the plan was to alternate behind the wheel to keep them fresh for the long trek and allow one of them to keep a close eye on their precious cargo. There was a lot to worry about but there was much to be gained, so they pushed on with determination. From the back of the black truck JR looked out the windows and watched entire worlds go by in the blink of an eye.

First alerted by the Primate Rescue Center in Kentucky, we wasted no time in agreeing to provide immediate placement to a long-tailed macaque being kept in horrendous living conditions. The pictures we received left no doubt that this monkey needed help, and now. The little fingers clutching his feces-encrusted cage and his soulful eyes peering out from a ruined life will haunt me for years. We are at capacity and have several monkeys on a list waiting for placement, but this life couldn’t wait for space to open up someday. He needed help now.

Sandy first saw JR almost two years ago and was appalled at his living conditions and the cruelty he was often subjected to. From that first contact she determined that she would do whatever she could for him to ease his suffering. She brought him treats whenever she could and tried to socialize with him to relieve his stress, all the while encouraging his “owner” to release him to a sanctuary or at least change his living conditions. Many people would have given up, but month after month Sandy worked for JR’s freedom.

The pet primate trade is a cruel business that starts with a baby being stolen from his or her mother for profit and frequently ends in a highly stressed, psychologically damaged animal forced to endure a life of small cages, social isolation and unrelenting frustration. People misled to believe that primates make good pets often are left to pick up the pieces of shattered lives while the baby they raised with love turns on friends and family members and becomes a danger to everyone in the community.

In this case, the owner had neither love for him nor any interest in picking up the pieces — or even picking up after him. JR’s cage was 6 inches deep in feces and everything, including food and toys, was thickly covered with excrement. Throughout his life JR had been teased, fed a poor diet, given alcohol and forced to get high on marijuana. When his caretakers became frustrated with him they threw things at his cage. In 2001, at less than a month old, he was sold by Hunt’s Exotics in Missouri to an animal’s worst nightmare and he lived that nightmare in the same cage for more than 10 years.

In May, after almost two years of effort, the breakthrough Sandy had been hoping for finally happened. JR’s “owner” would consider giving him up. Sandy began frantically contacting sanctuaries to find a good home for him, but the part she thought might be easy was getting hard: Legitimate sanctuaries were full and she began to worry that the owner might change her mind if a suitable home couldn’t be found right away.

When we were finally connected via a phone call I listened to Sandy as she explained the situation, and it was clear how badly she wanted to help JR. I told her we would accept him as an emergency placement and the relief in her voice was palpable. Then some bad news: We wouldn’t be able to provide transportation and he would have to be placed in quarantine since he had received no veterinary care during his life and had not been tested for TB or vaccinated against tetanus.

I knew the hardest part of this rescue was going to be getting him transported to the sanctuary, and that’s often a sticking point in rescuing out-of-state animals. In this case it turned out to be quite easy: Sandy was ready to drive him down right away! From that point things moved quickly. Sandy secured legal transfer of ownership, loaded up the truck and headed to South Texas, where warm sun and a new life awaited JR.

Sandy and Ruth, both exhausted but smiling, delivered JR safely and we worked quickly to remove him from the cramped puppy cage 2 inches thick in caked newspaper and dog excrement the owner had put him in for the trip. Renamed Freeman, he is making rapid strides and is adjusting to a proper diet and now wants to be groomed. He looks out from his quarantine cage at all the other monkeys and is imitating facial expressions and watching the staff work throughout the day. Soon he’ll be in larger quarters and will start the process of integrating with other monkeys, his nightmares banished forever.

How long would Freeman have remained in appalling conditions if Sandy hadn’t followed her heart and worked to secure his freedom? Fortunately we’ll never know, but what we have since learned is that in addition to all her negotiations to save him, Sandy spent her entire disability check and an additional $300 to drive Freeman to safety.

We can’t be there for primates in need without your help so please consider donating to one of our primate funds today and make Sandy as proud of you as we are of her.

For all the JRs out there,

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