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!

A New Arrival for the New Year

From Animal Issues, Volume 36 Number 1, Spring 2005

Published: 03/30/05

At the beginning of 2005, a female snow monkey arrived at the API Primate Sanctuary. As a former "pet," Carly had been forced to spend years living in social isolation, away from others of her kind. Animal Control confiscated her from her "owner" in Nevada. Carly had been kept in a cage in a garage: no fresh air, no sunshine, no climbing structures. Photos taken show her "home": a barren, un-enriched environment, the metal grid floor of which was covered with her waste, rotten food, and dirty blankets.

The garage was full of clutter. It appeared that Carly had been severely neglected, and, being fed primarily on junk food, was not getting proper nutrition. She was slightly overweight and her muscles were weak. Living in such a small, confined space, she had no opportunity to exercise. Because there was no door to her cage, she had to be anesthetized and cut out of her cage with bolt cutters.

Upon her arrival at the API Primate Sanctuary, Carly showed great interest in the sights and sounds around her and was eager to be released from her travel pen. For the first time in many years, she was actually able to see and listen to other snow monkeys. But, as is typical of most ex-"pets," she exhibited quite a bit of abnormal behavior. The most prominent of this was bouts of repetitive rocking side to side, often seen in any captive animal as a result of boredom and frustration.

Sanctuary staff released Carly into her own semi-natural enclosure. The enclosure is part of a group of enclosures that house former "pet" snow monkey. We have great hopes that Carly will start to make friends and form attachments with those around her. We also expect that her behavior will slowly improve with time. During the next few weeks, her rehabilitation will be monitored by staff with the goal of eventually opening up her enclosure so that she can become part of a social group.

Carly’s sad plight vividly emphasizes why it is so tragically wrong for people to keep wild animals as "pets." Carly is one of the lucky ones in that she now has a chance at a semi-normal life. There are, however, many thousands of others leading miserable, neglected, and lonely lives in garages, back rooms, and sheds in homes throughout the country.

One of API’s primary areas of advocacy is to end the keeping of wild and exotic animals as "pets." We hope that you will continue to support API’s vital work — including legislative advocacy and public education — in this area until the day arrives when Carly and all wild animals are kept where they belong: in the wild.

Primates as "Pets"

Wild animals such as nonhuman primates belong in their natural habitat, and should not be kept as "pets."

Often raised as if they were human children, these animals are deprived of the companionship of others of their own kind. Keeping these individuals in isolation from other nonhuman primates results in neurotic and disturbed behavior. By their very nature, these animals are wild and potentially dangerous and do not adjust well to a captive environment.

On reaching adulthood, captive primates begin to exhibit unpredictable behavior. They become territorial and aggressive. They tend to bite to defend themselves and to establish dominance. Because they may no longer be "cute and cuddly," and are often viewed as becoming a "nuisance," their "owners" can no longer cope.

The animals are then often handed over to zoos or sanctuaries to spend the rest of their long lives, sometimes as much as 40 years, still in captivity. Some may even be abandoned or simply killed.

Snow Monkeys

Japanese macaques — or snow monkeys, as they are often called — are native to Japan and live in mountainous, deep-forested areas in the coldest environs of any primates outside of human beings. The environment in which they live has temperatures ranging from 5°F in winter to 73°F in summer.

Snow monkeys have thick, furry coats, usually ranging in color from gray to brown or mottled, to survive the cold winters. They have no hair on their face, which becomes red during adulthood. They also have a short tail.

Snow monkeys are good swimmers and in their native habitat will soak in natural hot springs to keep warm during the winter. They have thumbs that are somewhat opposable, allowing them to manipulate objects similarly to human beings. The normal lifespan of a snow monkey is 25–30 years.

Snow monkeys live in hierarchical troops. Each troop is lead by a dominant alpha male. He is assisted by 2–3 male "helpers" who maintain order in the group. The basic composition of a group, however, is adult females and their young, forming a matrilineal society. There are strong social bonds, particularly amongst the females, who usually remain in the same troop for life.

At the bottom of the hierarchy are the adult males who are not in control. They may remain on the periphery of the troop. Adolescent males will often disperse from the troop as they reach sexual maturity. Some will remain solitary while others will move between groups throughout their lives. Grooming is important in maintaining the social bonds between individuals.

Snow monkeys are primarily vegetarian, subsisting mainly on plants, nuts, and fruits. They will, however, eat some arthropods such as insects or spiders. They have cheek pouches to carry food while foraging. They are diurnal animals, foraging during the day and roosting in trees at night.

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