Primarily Primates: Year in review at the rescue
by Dustin Rhodes
Regarding the work we do, we’re not supposed to play favorites here at Friends of Animals, but there’s no denying that Primarily Primates—the 78-acre sanctuary we’ve managed since 2007 in San Antonio, Texas, which is home to 350 animals—is our pride and joy. While our mission is to rescue and rehabilitate, watching the primates, birds and three wild horses in our care change, grow and experience new found freedom and joy for the first time is life-changing for those who work at the sanctuary (and those of us lucky enough to visit). And it’s profound for the animals in our care, whom we’re committed to for the rest of their lives.
Primarily Primates will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2018, and thanks to a devoted community of supporters we will continue to save primates and birds as long as they need our help. We wanted you to “meet” the animals that we rescued in 2017—these animals are still looking for sponsors, so if one of them “speaks” to you please visit Primarily Primates’ website: www.primarilyprimates.org And don’t forget to follow Primarily Primates’ Facebook page, as it’s an absolute guarantee that it will brighten your day and put a smile on your face.
April 2017: Skeeter. Skeeter is a 14-year-old pigtail macaque who arrived from Asheville, N.C., where his owner attempted to surrender him at a rescue for dogs and cats. Prior to his arrival at Primarily Primates, he had never interacted (or even seen) another primate of his own species, as he lived with two humans who fed him human food and locked him in a cage unsuitable for a primate of his size. When he arrived he was addicted to television and refused to eat fresh vegetables—having adopted the bad habits of the humans with which he lived.
Having spent so much time in a small cage, his feet had atrophied—curling almost completely under— and he had a hard time moving, much less climbing, around. His caretakers quickly devised an exercise program for Skeeter, so that he had to climb short ladders to do all the things he loved: eat, play with toys, observe his new friends. Skeeter lost excess weight quickly and his agility increases by the day. And guess what else? Skeeter’s favorite food—period—is avocado. Actually, he likes most fresh fruits and vegetables. We’ll soon introduce Skeeter to a roommate—the very first time he’ll meet another macaque, face to face. Stay tuned!
June 2017: Danny and Missy. What makes this duo so unique that they are two different species of primate, who were rescued together—because they were raised together. Danny is black-handed spider monkey and Missy is a brown capuchin. These two species would not exist together in the wild, let alone be friends, but these two are inseparable. They were raised in a household as pets, and health issues necessitated their rescue. Both of them were extremely shy when they first arrived, but in a very short period of time—while Danny is still the low-key and mellow of the two—Missy loves to climb, play, be protective of Danny, while spending a fair amount of her day “tormenting” her neighbors at the sanctuary, Caulder and Greer.
They love to spend time trying to solve complex enrichment puzzles (meant to provide stimulation); Missy has already proven herself to be Mensa material, with her lightning fast intellect. We had initially planned to introduce them to other primates of their own species, but they have shown us definitely that their bond is sealed and they are inseparable.
July 2017: John Wayne. Don’t let the name fool you. John Wayne is a female! This 2-year-old female ring-tailed lemur arrived when her human family had a change of heart—deciding that she should enjoy the company of other lemurs at the sanctuary instead of a pet home. Just like her namesake, she already has a huge fan club among care staff. She appears to be thriving and enjoying the enriching environment at Primarily Primates, especially since she was introduced to Jiggy.
December 2017: Phoenix. Primarily Primates got a call from a staff member at Broadway Oaks Animal Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, alerting us that someone dropped off a pet female lemur who had been mauled by a dog. Since the animal hospital specializes in dog and cat care and was ill-equipped to care for a primate, the staff needed help.
Through the efforts of Primarily Primates, Dr. Richardson of Broadway Oaks, and Dr. Coke of the San Antonio Zoo, a plan emerged for her rescue, operation and rehabilitation. Sadly, the former owners, who didn’t want to be responsible for her veterinary care, told the animal hospital to euthanize her despite the fact that her injuries are likely not life-threatening.
But that’s not to say that the lemur’s injuries aren’t very serious. She has a fracture in one arm and the other is broken is so many places it will have to be amputated, as it beyond repair. We also learned that the attack happened weeks before she was even taken to the veterinary hospital—which not only caused great suffering but made the injuries worse.
At press time, she had already arrived at Primarily Primates, and was scheduled for surgery. Of course, there will be a period of rest and recovery before she can be introduced to another lemur. But our hope is that she can eventually live with Jordan, who lost his best friend Neysimbe to cancer a short while ago. Jordan’s beautiful habitat, which also includes an enrichment area that is grass-bottomed, can be outfitted to accommodate a one-armed lemur.
We decided to name the new lemur Phoenix—a nod to classical mythology—because she has defeated hard times and challenges, which is remarkable.