Monkey Madness

Monkey MadnessBack in 2000, we helped Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission with an utterly heartbreaking rescue. An elderly couple had passed away. Among the many animals locked in their tiny house were four monkeys. Three of the monkeys were in bird cages in various states of terror and anxiety. The fourth, a Spider Monkey, was found leashed the body of the dead woman, staring vacantly and quite obviously traumatized.

While we had worked with primates before, our animal sanctuary focused on big cats and more native Florida wildlife. We didn’t do monkeys. But when we saw how bad the situation was, there was no way we weren’t going to help.

Trapping the smaller monkeys in the bird cages was relatively easy, but the poor Spider Monkey went crazy when Fish & Wildlife and Animal Control tried to cage him. They were afraid he was going to hurt himself and them in his attempts to stay with his deceased owner. It took quite a bit of time and patience to get him safely crated in a transport cage. But, that was only the start of the process.

As soon as we arrived back at our sanctuary, we realized that none of these monkeys had ever been outdoors before, plus we had no idea if they had ever spent time with each other or any other animals. This meant that we could not just release them into one of our existing outdoor enclosures. So, after a long day helping rescue them, we had to build floor to ceiling enclosures in our home for each of them.

We also noticed that all of the monkeys had had their front teeth, including their canines removed. Some monkey owners do this to make handling the monkeys safer, but it also means that these monkeys could not chew food normally. We had to cut up fruits and vegetables in small chunks for them and let them sit in water to soften them up, which we have had to do ever since.

After a few days, we were starting to get to know each of the monkeys a bit more. Amos, the larger Spider Monkey, acted very much like a child, and we suspect we was raised like one. He had been wearing a diaper when he was found and you could tell he needed a lot of human attention. He didn’t want to eat of a food dish, he wanted to be hand fed. In fact, our head trainer had to carry him around on her hip most of the time. He did not want to be put down or be alone in his cage. To this day, Amos comes in at night to sleep because otherwise he suffers from anxiety and nightmares.

Meanwhile, we realized the two Tufted Capuchins, Andy and Dolly, seemed to like each other, so we paired them up in an outdoor enclosure and they settled in with each other rapidly. They still like a lot of human contact, but were a comfort to each other when they were on their own.

That left the White Faced Capuchin, Rosie. We initially called Rosie, The Grumpy Old Lady. She didn’t like anyone, especially not women. Our founder, head-trainer, and overall boss lady, Christin, made it her mission to settle in and train Rosie. For weeks, every time Christin entered the house, she would get hit in the head by Rosie’s water bottle (this little girl had very good aim). Any time Christin would get close to Rosie’s cage, Rosie would try and scratch out her eyes and/or grab her ears and hair to bang Christin’s head into the bars of the cage. This went on for close to two months, but persistence and patience eventually won out and Rosie started to trust people again.

The transformation has been nothing other than a miracle. Rosie’s new nickname is, “The Happy Monkey.” She considers Christin to be her “mom” and through their building trust, learned to be a real monkey. Being stuck in a small bird cage most of her life, Rosie never knew she could jump. It took weeks of coaxing to get her leap even small distances. Now, she loves to jump, especially in front of an audience. Rosie has become one of our most famous educational animals because she loves to perform and show off for people. She still doesn’t like many women, but she is so obviously a much happier animal than when she first came to us.

Rosie has become a surrogate mom to many of the smaller animals we help rescue here at The CARE Foundation, including several non-releasable raccoons. She has her own pet, a micro-pig, named Pigourney Weaver (P-Wea), and she goes in with her Tufted Capuchin pals, Andy and Dolly, to play all the time.

As for Amos, the Spider Monkey, he has become a celebrity. He has his own Facebook page (link here) where he posts updates for all his fans. All of the monkeys who came in from that tragic rescue have learned how to be monkeys again, but we still respect the way they were raised and still spoil them like little kids every so often. Monkey movie night is a perk our staff and senior volunteers enjoy where they get to sit and have their popcorn stolen while we watch monkey-approved films with our primate gang (no Planet of the Apes for us… we don’t need them getting ideas).

We have rescued a few more monkeys now, but we will always be thankful that we could help our Amos, Rosie, Andy and Dolly have happier and more fulfilling lives.