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Message from Stephen R. Tello, President of Primarily Primates

October 31, 2006 | Chimpanzees

From: Stephen R. Tello
President of Primarily Primates

I thank everyone for being such devoted friends to Primarily Primates, Inc. (PPI). As you know, our sanctuary has come under a series of legal attacks, the most recent one involving a proceeding brought by the Texas State Attorney General, acting on the complaint of PETA.

A receiver, Lee Watt, appointed by the Court as a receiver with respect to all affairs of PPI, has been given broad authority, which, as shown below, threatens the well-being and existence of PPI.

A hearing on the receiver's application for a temporary injunction (which, if granted, would give the receiver and PeTA total control of the sanctuary) produced some startling revelations. Please forgive me if I write in a bit of court-reporter style legalese here for a moment.

Theisen-Watt, in her application for the receiver appointment, consisting of an affidavit, submitted under penalty for perjury, included false statements. The false statements consisted of a resume saying she possessed a bachelor of science degree but in truth, she doesn't have even a two-year associates degree.

Theisen-Watt testified that she heads a broad group of volunteers at the sanctuary, but in court barely knew the names of even a few of these volunteers and could not say which volunteers were working on what issues. In fact, Theisen-Watt was unable to give the name of a single one of the people who are looking through PPI's financial records. In court, Lee Theisen-Watt admitted that she allowed dozens of people to run through PPI's documents, safes, file cabinets, donor mailing lists, computers, financial accounts. When the lawyers asked her who she allowed to go through our office like that she actually said she "didn't know." She didn't take down all of the peoples' names nor know who they all worked for. She also didn't have any accounting for donations made to PPI during the two weeks she was there. She just said people have been so kind and donated things we need but there is no accounting for these items.

Theisen-Watt claimed in court testimony that the PPI employees have been overworked, yet without proper explanation she has told employees not to come to work.

Three witnesses, employees of PPI, spoke of what has happened since the appointment of receiver on October 13, 2006. The great majority of Theisen-Watt's "volunteers" "“ several are with PETA - have merely entered the property, then photographed and frightened the animals. Additional testimony established that the volunteers, working under the authority of the receiver, sedated animals prior to photographing them. Photographs were also taken of areas before cleaning, in an attempt to misrepresent the state of the sanctuary. There was further testimony establishing that Watt's preference is to simply kill the animals on the property and testimony also described Theisen-Watt as a participant in the death of 200 dogs, victims of Katrina whom she was suppose to care for but if they were killed I would say that task obviously failed.

A receiver is a role with the highest responsibilities "“ what the lawyers call a fiduciary role. Yet, by her own admissions on direct testimony, it seems that there is a difference between that role and what the receiver did and didn't do, what she did and didn't know.

To my knowledge so far, Theisen-Watt has removed over 250 animals from the place they call home. From what she said on the stand, these are just some of the animals she felt had to leave their home and life at PPI: Four horses and ponies (who were free-roaming on 60 acres); 2 pot-bellied pigs; we had 21 turkeys (some wild and many saved by vegans on Thanksgiving day) all gone; we had 27 waterfowl (11 of the Canadian geese were discarded after starring in the feature Winged Migration) on our pond all gone. We had 20 pigeons. She opened the coop door and set them free. We know from past experience that the pigeons have no idea how to survive in the wild; the raccoons and hawks will find it easy to eat them. She sent off probably 50 guinea pigs, 80 chickens of various types, 2 bobcats, 2 macaws, 2 baboons; 7 dogs; 30 plus peafowl and Guinea hens who were free-roaming birds on 80 acres; a macaque who was scheduled to have a tumor removed, several capuchins; 2 Celebes macaques; the list goes on.

Everyday, PETA lawyers and PETA staff walk around the sanctuary according to the real animal caregivers. They walk up to the enclosures with their friends and families and allow them to take pictures of the monkeys up close, frightening them with flash bulbs. PETA and the Attorney General have turned PPI into a three-ring circus. Falsehoods continue to spread about our loyal workers.

Even as I waited in the court room, I had to hear our caregivers tell the judge and all how, under the receivership of Lee Theisen-Watt, a lemur we rescued named Jordan was released into an enclosure we he sustained critical injuries. If not for our worker Elena, Jordon may have even died, because he was introduced to the lemur troop to whom he had not been acclimated. She found Jordon lying flat on the ground, afraid to move, covered in lacerations. Elena asked the staff of the receiver for medical help. Jordan, at the time of Elena's testimony in court, has still not received medical attention and that was 2 days later.

Elena, on the stand, said she was walking along the grounds and the PETA-paid veterinarian Mel Richardson made a direct comment to her and two other caregivers stating something to the effect of wishing there was a laser to kill all the old capuchins.

Jeff also took the stand. Jeff is in charge of a large group of Air Force chimpanzees and other chimpanzees that you might recognize by name from our newsletters. Jeff asked the volunteers that PETA and Lee "“Theisen Watt have allowed to roam the grounds of PPI untrained and unsupervised not to feed treats to a group of bachelor chimpanzees. Jeff knows how to care for the chimpanzees and he knows that there is a way to give to all the chimpanzees without causing fights. Yet when Jeff took his lunch break, he returned to find that the volunteers of Lee Theisen-Watt and PETA gave this group treats and Uriah (the most vulnerable) was attacked, taking a gash dangerously close to his right eye.

I've just heard reports that a cotton-top tamarin was stolen from PPI last night. Watt, PETA and the Attorney General have unjustly taken over PPI claiming they are here to do good for the animals, yet in the two weeks that they have been in charge, I'm facing the reality of animals injured and receiving no medical care, animals missing, and hundreds of animals being disposed of by Watt.

As I write this Monday morning, I have yet to go on the stand. Tuesday I will. I hope that I stand up for the animals of PPI as well as Jeff, James, and Elena did. I suppose we now have three more (human) primates needing good care as they have given to others. Hearing their testimony to how poorly they are being treated, to how anxiety-producing the atmosphere is for the nonhuman animals, how they see other animals being moved daily, how we lack reports of their whereabouts or how they are doing, how the office is being rummaged through by people who the receiver evidently cannot even identify... And this is supposed to be in the best interest of the public and the animals?

In my opinion, this takeover of PPI is purely for public fund-raising at the expense of the animals at PPI. Weirdly, it seems like the officials of the Texas State Attorney General are willing to be aligned with that -- or is it still not obvious to their office?

Kindly ask them, as I will.


I believe that the PPI is doing a great job of caring for the animals that reside there. To me, anyone who deliberately opens cages or removes these animals from the property is not someone who should be around animals at all. Those actions show a lack of knowledge of what is best for the welfare of the animals. I have never been in the vicinity where I could visit PPI nor have I seen any mistreatment of any animal there so I am basing my comments on the information I have read.

I care for animals so much I will even try to rescue one if it's in a busy street. They are like people they have feelings just like us but some people don't see it that way.

Please help us! We can't win the battle alone!

Shame on PETA and on this Lee Theisen-Watt person! They both need to be in jail for abuse of animals. How heartbreaking that this is taking place at PPI and all the animals. This article was truly an eye opener of what is really going on at PPI because of PETA, the Texas State Attorney General and this mean Lee Theisen-Watt person. They need to be stopped before they end up killing all the animals. Thank you FOA for keeping us well informed. Please save these poor animals!

Could we please have an update?

Ive read the posts and comments of this site and read and viewed things on the PPI site. It would be very easy to judge all sides involved. I try not to put to much stock in what I read online. It is usually short on the facts. However....Photos are more beleaveable. I viewed several on the PPI site that left me with many many questions (for all sides involved). The one that bothers me more than most is the one of Daryl and his living conditions. Why was he put in there by himself? Why was he put into a place that is not completed? After viewing ALL the photos I find I have more and more questions. Can Mr.Tello or someone from PETA or the AG's office please explain why? We humans have dropped the ball on this one. [Blog editors' note: The PPI site appears to have been hijacked by the group PETA -- even though that group does not own PPI and is in fact suing the refuge. A new statement, issued by Priscilla Feral of Friends of Animals, is now available for viewing. It discusses photos and other issues and we think you'll find it helpful. Thank you for writing.]

I have to say, I'm humbled by my own ignorance of PETA's tactics – I thought they had evolved more than this in the past several decades, and I thought they were motivated by a desire to show everyone that compassion was their primary goal, because that SHOULD be their chief goal. And because it isn't, I can easily and with a clear conscience withdraw my support of their organization and focus on others, like yourselves, that are more in line with my thinking. Thank you for continuing to keep FOA members in the loop about what's happening and I applaud you on your bravery. You're doing everything right and God Bless you for it, a million times.

Unfortunately, this is the tragic end that many animals face against humans because they are incapable of fighting back.

I don't understand why peta is doing this? They recently had an article in their magazine on why dogs should be euthanized. How can they be stopped?

I don't understand why peta is doing this? They recently had an article in their magazine on why dogs should be euthanized. How can they be stopped?


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