Rescued Macaques Outside at Last

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Rescued Macaques Outside at Last

By Priscilla Feral, Friends of Animals

Macaques walked up to greet each other for the first time with no bars separating them. Some held each other, bewildered and wide-eyed as they looked around at their new environment.

A New Jersey firm that tested substances for toxicity went out of business this year. Normally we never hear, in such situations, what happens to the animals used by the company. This time, we did.

We found out about 55 male macaque monkeys who were still alive in the place; and in mid-July, after weeks of court deliberations, the enterprise released them. Organizing a response with Primarily Primates of San Antonio and three other sanctuaries, we helped all 55 to safety. A group of dogs at the same lab also came out alive.

Java macaques are tree-dwelling monkeys, and they would normally be found in coastal woodlands and rainforests of Southeast Asia. But these monkeys had lived their entire lives caged. They would need immediate and long-term care from people who know their needs.

The primate sanctuary Born Free USA of Dilley, Texas opened its doors to welcome 15 macaques. Mindy's Memory in New Castle, Oklahoma rushed to construct an expansive enclosure to accommodate eight of the monkeys. Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation in Kendalia, Texas generously offered space for seven more.

Primarily Primates welcomed a truck filled with most of the monkeys: 25 arrived wearing the restraint chair collars that confined them for four to six years as they were kept in place for experiments. A former lab worker who volunteers at Primarily Primates explains: A pipe is used to hook on to an opening in the collar to remove the monkeys from their cages, and to guide them into a chair. Next, screws are applied to the collar to hold the monkey in place while their arms are pinned down.

One blue restraint collar, made of strong, rigid plastic a half-inch thick, was sent to my office by mail after Primarily Primates' director Stephen Tello removed the 25 collars from the necks of each of the Java macaques.

More than a dozen kind-hearted people learned about the extraordinary rescue on Twitter (where you can find me under the name @primate_refuge), and offered $10 a month to sponsor particular monkeys. Most of the monkeys needed names too. Five-digit identification numbers were tattooed across each monkey's small chest. One had been named "Monster"-now Gabriel. The new sponsors suggested a variety of additional names, including Bojangles, Neville, Lee, Peanut, Rudy, Brownie, Jupiter, Blaise, Milano, Kera, Shiva, Theo, and Tonks.

The sponsorships bring community awareness to what animals go through for science, and at the same time to support quality nutrition, care and housing for the released monkeys. Living in their groups of three to four, interacting and enjoying nutritious food, each of these folks could live another 20 years.

For all they've endured, they are adjusting wonderfully well to their new lives. They are remarkably flexible individuals. One arrived sick with fear and needed emergency medical treatment, but is recovering well. Most took to their new circumstances quickly. Stephen and Primarily Primates' on-site veterinarian observed the release of the first 12 monkeys who were freed from the collars, and Stephen wrote:

Some macaques are playing in the hay with their toys, in awe of new outdoor surroundings, and inspecting hiding places. Small arguments have ended.

At first, Theo sat in his stainless steel holding cage, unwilling to come out. Buzzbee, his new roommate, walked into the holding cage, gave Theo a hug, and after a few minutes, they walked out into their new living area together.

Macaques walked up to greet each other for the first time with no bars separating them. Some held each other, bewildered and wide-eyed as they looked around at their new environment.

Special thanks to the National Anti-Vivisection Society of Chicago, Illinois for stepping up quickly with a $5,000 grant to cover materials for these monkeys' living and sleeping areas. Their support, and the support of many individuals and groups working together, saved the monkeys' lives.