The Lucky Nine
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!
The Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary is home to more than 600 primates and, while the majority of the inhabitants are macaques, it is also home to 22 baboons. These incredible primates are notable not only for their distinct looks, but also for their unique personalities. Two of the most endearing characters are Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley, two young male baboons who seem to have a never-ending supply of energy and a predisposition for mischief. They are quick to investigate anything new, whether it’s something added to their enclosure or an unusual sound. No blade of grass, insect, or flower escapes their notice and subsequent harassment, to the point of wearing everything (and everyone) out around them. Fortunately, our newest baboon residents are much more relaxed and easy going.
The Lucky Nine, as we refer to them, are nine female baboons that were recently retired to the Sanctuary from a research facility. These baboons spent their entire lives in research, some for as long as 23 years, where they never had access to the world outside, much less grass under their feet or anything close to freedom. Due to their long-term confinement, they were not nearly as athletic as their wild counterparts—so, we decided to keep the girls in smaller sections of their new enclosure in order to give them the opportunity to get to know each other and build up their strength.
In the following weeks, the baboon girls slowly settled in and were regularly seen grooming and socializing with each other, as well as enjoying the taste of raw fruits and veggies. After a hesitant start, they soon became adept at climbing all over their structures, as well as on the walls of their safety areas. Finally, after weeks of exercising, socializing, and adjusting to their new lives, it was time to let them explore the rest of their natural enclosure.
As the doors were opened into the half-acre, open-topped enclosure, Pearl, Missy, and Chloe exited quickly to explore their new environment, soon followed at a more cautious pace by Friendly, Brooke, and the rest of the girls. Walking carefully through the dirt and grass, they spread out slightly, intensely alert to the new world around them and seemingly filled with wonder. We can only imagine what it was like for each one of them to suddenly be in open space with the sun overhead and earth between their toes, but I think the experience was likely both intimidating and magnificent.
For the Primates,