Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Visiting My Hairy Relatives

(Gizmo and Tyler at Jungle Friends Sanctuary)

I know we are primates. I have always known it with my heart and mind, but not with my direct experience. I am always telling people that I am old for a primate. We should all be grateful if we live beyond 40 in this world. We humans forget we are primates. We think we are from a family separate from other animals. I think our lack of hair confuses us. We not only have almost no body hair compared to our non-human primate relatives, but we try to get rid of the little bit of hair we have left. We are grossed out by men having back hair, women having armpit or leg hair or facial hair and we definitely don't want a single hair showing up in our noses or ears.

This primate posting is not just out of the blue. I visited my hairy relatives and fell in love 120 times. I visited Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary here in Florida. It is only about a half hour from where we are staying. I hope my non-hairy relatives won't be insulted when I say that our hairy relatives: are much cuter, are much more aware of their bodies, are more in touch with their own and others nature, communicate more directly, are in better physical shape, make better food choices and show their emotions more genuinely than any of us.

This sanctuary is a haven for the monkeys there. It is not their full natural wild habitat, but it is a far cry from the abusive situations they lived in previously. Some of the monkeys there were previously used in research labs and were abused repeatedly in toxicity experiments. These monkeys flip out if more than two humans approach them at the same time.
(Caged monkeys in Asia awaiting shipment to medical laboratories.)
(Primate in toxicity experiment)

Others at the sanctuary came from homes where foolish humans thought they would make good "pets" and found out they actually need more than a windowless basement, barren cage, junk food and no attention. Many have diabetes from the junk food they were given for years.
(Confiscated "pet" monkey found in home with other exotic animals in a 2 ft x 2 ft cage.)

One of my favorites of the rescued monkeys at Jungle Friends has only one eye and almost no fur and a non working tail and was found wandering down the Eishenhower Expressway in Chicago with smoke in his lungs. One of the monkeys is partial to women and throws things at any male who comes along. He threw sticks, dirt and stones at JC and then jumped up and down in excitement when he hit his target. Another one is a male who is partial to males and flirts with all male visitors, but ignores all women and girls. This same gay monkey met a woman who visited there and was flirting with her. The staff at the sanctuary was baffled by it until they found out the woman was a transexual. Some of the monkeys came from situations where they were "service animals" in misguided greed filled programs like Helping Hands. These programs make millions selling service monkeys to people who do not have use of their arms. The monkey is supposed to help the human. The reality is that these monkeys end up being a burden for the person they are supposed to be helping and are usually surrendered to a sanctuary or killed because they become aggressive in the unnatural house/apartment environment.
One visit to this sanctuary would hopefully convince anyone that these relatives are indeed relatives and there should be no question that we should not be using them in experiments or stealing them from their habitat and families for our own pleasure/entertainment. I am not suggesting that we should do these things to any non-relatives, of course :) But, one look into the eyes of one of these monkeys or one of them reaching out his or her very human-like hand makes our connection to them undeniable. Each of the monkeys at the sanctuary has the opportunity to choose a partner they want to live with. Their preferences for a partner are as varied as any human I know. A quiet monkey at Jungle Friends chose another quiet monkey to live with and a hyper loud monkey chose another hyper loud monkey. Some change their minds and decide to switch partners after living together with one who doesn't strike their fancy as much as the new one. As much as we like to set ourselves apart from other animals and claim that we are other than animal, we are not vegetable or mineral. We are, indeed, animals. One slow walk through the big tree filled enclosures at this sanctuary will surely convince anyone but the most stubborn "animal separatist".
The visit to Jungle Friends reminded me, once again, about the power of these sanctuaries. Animal slaves used/abused as food, entertainment, and experimental subjects end up in these facilities if they are lucky. Sanctuaries cannot give them back a normal life in their habitat with their families, but they make life more comfortable for the beings who live there. These sanctuaries remind visitors that these beings are individuals, our relatives, who seek comfort and caring relationships and deserve the best we can give them.
Please support sanctuaries with donations and, if possible, visit them and feel even more empowered to help the individuals working there and living there.

Anna Claire at Jungle Friends

(visit the Jungle Friends website and view the videos there, including The Hundredth Monkey: A Perfect Gift for your fellow human primates this holiday season would be a donation to Jungle Friends or other sanctuary!


  1. Thank you Rae for the reminder about the connections to our primate relatives. They deserve the sanctuary. We should make the whole planet a sanctuary for them. Hanuman can teach us about the unlimited power that lies unused within each of us.

    Sentient beings are numberless.. I VOW to free them all...


  2. This comment has been removed by the author.