Tim Ajax

Sanctuary Blog

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 Year That Was

From Animal Issues, Volume 35 Number 4, Winter 2004

Published: 12/30/04

As 2004 draws to a close, it’s a great time to pause and reflect on the progress and achievements that have taken place at the API Primate Sanctuary over the past year.

This has been a year of changes great and small — all of which were undertaken with the goal of making the Sanctuary the very best safe haven it can be.

Under the new directorship of Dr. Ned Buyukmihci and with the support of API’s main office, substantial improvements have been made to the structure and organization of the Sanctuary with respect to day-to-day operations and planning for the future. This includes a substantial increase in the budget allocated to the Sanctuary — a change that has made a real difference in the lives of the more than 400 nonhuman primates who call the Sanctuary "home"!

A top Sanctuary priority has been the recruitment of additional staff to improve the quality of care as well as to ensure ground and building maintenance around the Sanctuary site.

We’ve also expanded the work force at the Sanctuary. Four new staff members have joined the team, bringing the total number of employees to eight, all dedicated to the vision and purpose of the Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary’s annual food costs have increased to over $120,000. In the past, previous management assumed that the nonhuman primates could survive through indigenous sources of nourishment with only minor supplementation provided by humans. With the advent of API’s management, it was recognized that this was not the case.

API now provides the monkeys with a diverse diet every day. We’ve organized a weekly delivery of fresh produce; two on-site cargo containers, one of which is refrigerated, store perishable and dry food. The residents receive fresh produce daily, a mixture of fruits and vegetables. Favorites that are distributed regularly among the residents include bananas, mangoes, grapes, corn, and avocado pears. A commercial monkey chow and seed are also given.

We also provide environmental enrichment, such as toys and treats, to those individuals living in the semi-natural enclosures. The treats include food items such as peanuts, tortilla chips, and peanut butter sandwiches. We also provide a forage mix, including sunflower seeds, a definite favorite!

Primates are highly social animals. Companionship, grooming and playing encourage bonding and are important for psychological well-being. API is committed to the rehabilitation and introduction of primates to encourage pair and group living as well as to provide an enriched and stimulating environment.

During the past year there have been two major releases of monkeys into free-ranging enclosures. Seven baboons were released into the established five-acre baboon enclosure. To allow for group compatibility, the vervets were released into two specially-designed, enriched enclosures.

In addition, we have built other semi-natural enclosures to provide a stimulating and enriching environment for those monkeys who, for a variety of reasons, cannot be released into the large free-ranging enclosures. These monkeys are predominantly ex-"pets" and zoo animals who do not possess the necessary skills to fit into an already well-established primate troop. During the past year, the Sanctuary has been successful in rehabilitating a number of these emotionally disturbed individuals, who were deprived of companionship during the first critical years of their lives. Our plan for these individuals is to further improve their lives by facilitating the formation of larger social groups in enclosures of between 1–2 acres.

After everything these primates have been through, they deserve lives of freedom and comfort. We cannot provide this without the support of dedicated animal advocates like you.

Please consider making a donation to API today to ensure a bright future at the Sanctuary for years to come. We can’t do this critical, "hands-on" work without your help.

Noelle, a vervet, arrived at the Sanctuary in 2001. She is five years old. As a former "pet," Noelle was treated like a human child and was kept in diapers and a harness. Emotionally disturbed by this experience, Noelle can often be seen clutching a cuddly toy. She is the smallest vervet at the Sanctuary, yet she is one of the most active and playful. Despite her early experience, after being released into the new vervet enclosure, she teamed up with three other female vervets.

McKenzie is a snow monkey who arrived at the Sanctuary very traumatized in 2001, when he was about 3 years old. He was a former "pet." McKenzie came from an auction in Minnesota and after being passed around to various "owners," he ended up in an animal control facility before ultimately arriving at the Sanctuary.

McKenzie shares a semi-natural enclosure with two other male snow monkeys, Abu and Oscar, who are also former "pets." The three were gradually introduced to each other and have now formed a close friendship. They spend their days playing and grooming each other. McKenzie is an active, boisterous individual, and likes to play on the ropes and swings. He enjoys foraging and has a fondness for sunflower seeds.
Darwin is a male olive baboon. He is a mischievous individual, playful and with a strong character. He is about nine years old and arrived at the Sanctuary in 2001. Darwin was a former "pet" and was kept in diapers and treated like a human member of the household.

Sadly, as a former "pet," Darwin does not seem to have had the social experience to enable him to interact fully with the other baboons. When he arrived at the Sanctuary he showed little interest in the other baboons but rather became a loner. During his time with us, however, he has formed a close friendship with one of the other male baboons, Lester, and they spend their days together roaming the five-acre baboon enclosure.

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