Tim Ajax

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!

Two Months Later, WAO Group Has Settled In

Published: 12/04/12

The happy ending of a two-year saga for 107 macaques and one baboon is finally here. In September, the last group of primates was successfully transported from their former home at the now-closed Wild Animal Orphanage (WAO) in San Antonio, TX, to their new home at the 186-acre Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary in Dilley, TX. Now, as the year comes to an end, Born Free USA reports that the animals are all adjusting and settling into their spacious digs — the place they will call home for the rest of their lives.

According to Tim Ajax, director of the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary: "It has been two months since the last group in the transfer arrived, and everyone has settled into their routine. Now cared for in large, open-air enclosures, the monkeys have made good use of the natural habitat and spend a good portion of each day climbing trees, exploring the ground for insects and tasty new plant shoots, and simply swaying with the treetops in the breeze.

“Some of these are behaviors they have never had a chance to engage in prior to coming here.”

Ajax adds: “Our new 42 stump-tailed macaque residents have all suffered for years from an allergy condition that caused hair loss and itching, and we can see now that it was likely something in the environment at their previous residence since their coats are filling in nicely and there is a healthy sheen to them that was absent before. To see the social, psychological and physical health of these animals turn around, is truly amazing and uplifting.”

Among the 107 animals who arrived are three babies. All are all doing wonderfully, reports Ajax. “The babies now have room to escape Mom’s protective clutches to do some safe roaming and appease their innate drive to explore, which is common to all species of primates.”

One of the groups of macaques with a baby is the rhesus group composed of four males and eight females, including the infant named Reagan, Ajax says. Since they are a cohesive group and very protective of Reagan, Ajax and his staff decided to try Chongo, a 2-year-old ex-“pet” male rhesus, with them to see if he could start learning some monkey social skills, which unfortunately he had never had the chance to learn before.

“We set him up in his own area and despite being very human-centered due to having been someone’s ‘pet,’ Chongo is now slowly making progress under the guidance from the adult monkeys,” Ajax says. “Several females visit him and quietly sit near him to provide reassurance. Transitioning from a confused ‘pet’ to a well-adjusted monkey can be a challenge, but the experienced rhesus group is making it much easier for him.”

Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA, says: “Challenges remain and we need ongoing financial support to provide the very best for them — and the over 500 other residents at the sanctuary — for the next 20 years. We are thrilled with how readily the residents from the massive move have adapted to their new natural habitat and larger space. It has been an incredible rescue."

It all started on Aug. 31, 2010, when Wild Animal Orphanage (WAO) announced the decision to dissolve its sanctuary “due to overpopulation, underfunding and inadequate housing for the animals.” According to the WAO board, they were in a “do or die situation” and they had to find placement for more than 100 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.

In 2011, Born Free USA worked for months with the WAO and the Texas Attorney General to find a way to help these animals. If Born Free USA did not step in, the large group of primates would likely have been euthanized. Since finalizing the details in November 2011, the sanctuary spent eight months building proper facilities and preparing for its new residents.

The move presented many challenges. In addition to the number of macaques involved, there were other highly complicated issues including: their sensitive social groupings — 12 animal groupings with troops as small as three and as large as 28; the age range — from under 1 year old to some in their 30s; many physical health conditions — from cataracts to skin and age-related bone issues; and a multitude of mental health issues many still suffer from as a result of their captivity prior to their life at WAO.

Roberts adds: “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 — a place where these animals were already once saved. Wild animals belong in the wild and these scenarios should never exist at all. Sanctuaries are filled to capacity, costly to run, and are the only aid we can give these animals.”

To learn more about the sanctuary, make a donation, or “adopt a primate” this holiday season, visit www.bornfreeusa.org/sanctuary.

Born Free USA is a nationally recognized leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to the United States 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 Travers, now chief executive officer of both organizations. Born Free’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally.

More at www.bornfreeusa.org; on Twitter at http://twitter.com/bornfreeusa; and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BornFreeUSA.

Media Contact: Rodi Rosensweig, publicrelations@bornfreeusa.org, (203) 270-8929.

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