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!
Now that November has arrived, the weather is finally starting to cool down here in South Texas and everyone is enjoying the milder temperatures. The primates are even starting to grow out their thicker coats in preparation for the impending winter.
In the spirit of the month of Thanksgiving, we thank the First United Methodist Church of New Braunfels, Texas who, after their annual Halloween Pumpkin Patch, generously donated all of their remaining pumpkins for the primates to enjoy here at the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary. They donated pumpkins both large and very small, and we are planning to use the small orange gourds as an enrichment item for the primates. Not only will they be a miniature, tasty treat, but they will provide a fun experience for the monkeys.
Enrichment is one of the important ways that we strive to give the primates the highest quality of life at the Sanctuary. When we talk about enrichment, we mean just that: a way to enhance experiences in the monkeys’ day-to-day lives. There are many different types of enrichment (some more social and others more cognitive), and it helps to address different aspects of the primates’ lives, such as their psychological stimulation and well-being. The tiny pumpkins will serve as food-based enrichment, providing them nutrition—but in a novel, exciting way.
Some of the macaques have recently enjoyed enrichment based on tactile and visual stimulation. We attached reflective metal disks with carabineers to their enclosure and let the monkeys have at them! The monkeys quickly managed to detach the “mirrors” from the fencing and then they ran off into the enclosure to play with their newfound toys. Sometimes they would look at themselves in the “mirrors” curiously for minutes at a time, and then carry their “mirrors” in both hands, walking upright, around the enclosure. They also liked to put them over their heads or dig at the dirt with them. It was a delight to see them get so much pleasure from something as simple as a mirror.
Primates need more than just food, water, and shelter. Despite living in large enclosures filled with many natural items, they also need enrichment! If you would like to help us enhance the lives of our primates this winter, please consider sending us fleece baby blankets or sturdy dog toys. Enrichment items can be sent to: The Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary, P.O. Box 25, Dilley, Texas 78017. For the safety of the primates, blankets should be completely intact (no loose threads) and fleece is preferred. New, as well as used, laundered blankets are welcome, and any tough dog toy will be thoroughly enjoyed by the monkeys!