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!
As you likely know, the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary is home to more than 600 nonhuman primates ranging widely in age, size, and species which include macaques, baboons, and vervets. What you might not know about the Sanctuary is that it is also home to many other non-primate animals.
It is our mission at Born Free USA to Keep Wildlife in the Wild and we like to practice what we preach. Though we use this land in South Texas as a home for more than 600 rambunctious primates, we take every opportunity to ensure that the area remains inviting to wildlife, and we're pleased that the ‘locals’ have stayed. Let me tell you a little bit more about some of the other inhabitants here at the Sanctuary and how we’ve learned to coexist.
We have numerous feral cats in the area, whom we love, but who present some challenges; the monkeys can sometimes pose a threat to the feral cats when they become possessive of them, pick them up, and then don't want to let them go. The cats can then be injured when they've had enough "loving" and want to get away. Additionally, the cats follow their natural predatory instincts and kill wildlife, even when they are well-fed. So, we’ve devised a reasonable solution; we’ve dedicated one of our older enclosures for the sole purpose of housing the cats. The Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary cats live in a spacious outdoor area where they can socialize and where they are free to move about. Not only does this keep them from getting into the primates’ enclosures, but it allows us to monitor their health and well-being. Of course, we spay and neuter all of the cats living on our property to prevent future births.
Frequently-seen visitors to the Sanctuary that non-Texans might find interesting are the numerous feral hogs who live in the area. Feral hogs in South Texas are the result of domestic pigs escaping to the wild and reproducing with Eurasian wild boars, which were set loose in Texas for hunting in the 1930s. Their population has since exploded and they can now be found statewide. For most Texans, feral hogs are considered ‘pests.’ But, while they do pose occasional problems at the Sanctuary, they mostly live in peace with their primate neighbors. The primates, who can sometimes be picky eaters, leave a lot of food scraps which can clutter their enclosures. Feral hogs are vivacious herbivores, and they’ve been known to eat just about anything, so whatever the primates won't eat is definitely appreciated by the hogs: recycling, nature's way.
Other species of wildlife such as deer, armadillo, bobcats, coyotes, and a variety of snakes, including the western diamondback rattlesnake, are also found here and it’s amazing to see how our primates have adapted to the company. The Japanese macaques have even created their own words for predators like bobcats and rattlesnakes, and when one of the monkeys makes an alarm call, everyone else knows exactly who they're supposed to watch out for.
When I hear a great horned owl hoot in the night, it's a magical feeling. And, when I wake in the morning to see the many different tracks left in the dirt overnight by the 'locals,' I'm reminded that we're all richer for the shared experience: monkeys, humans, and animals alike.
For the primates,