What happens when monkeys enter the Primate Rehabilitation Centre?
Monkeys come in at all stages – some are very young – far too young to be
separated from their mothers. Others have been chained for up to eleven years in solitary
confinement. All arrive stressed, traumatised, often behaviourally challenged and in ill
New monkeys are quarantined for 30 days after arrival, to help reduce the risk of
disease transmission to those already at the Centre. During this time they are screened
for a number of possible pathogens, and kept under close observation. The young and very
sick are housed inside, in the temporary Nursery Unit in the house (dedicated nursery
room is now in the planning stage), where they have access to 24 hour care and attention.
The adults are kept as stress-free as possible during the quarantine process,
helping to stabilize their behaviour and start improving their condition.
They are assessed for integration with other monkeys considered as 'best fits', to start
creating the release groups, or troops.
Rehabilitation focuses on returning each monkey to good physical and mental health as
soon as possible after arrival, providing the right food and surroundings to enable
proper development, the facilitation of social interaction with other monkeys and
gradual integration into cohesive groups or troops, the encouragement of exploration of
new foods and new surroundings, and the development of the climbing, foraging and
predator-avoidance skills that will be needed in the wild.
Once they leave quarantine, the monkeys pass through three rehabilitation phases,
dependent on their age and species:
- Nursery Unit
- Forest Cages
The Nursery Unit houses all the youngest monkeys, with a separate quarantine area
for new arrivals or sick monkeys. Many of these babies suffer from separation anxiety,
and need to be able to touch, or at least see, the nursery carers throughout the day.
This is particularly so with young spider monkeys such as Duma
and Izzie – in
this species, the young are highly dependent on the mothers until they are ten
months old, rarely moving out of touch range, and often clinging tightly to the
mother's front or back. To provide a sense of normality and security for young of
this highly intelligent species requires one on one care from a dedicated carer,
to be able to rebuild the confidence required for re-entry into the wild.
Currently, there are several young howler monkeys in the nursery at
any one time. This provides an opportunity to form groups from an early age,
reducing their dependency on human carers.
The older monkeys are moved to the Forest Cages, where they are housed in groups,
with space and time to develop social bondings and to learn to operate as a group
– playing, moving and feeding together, and transferring their focus from the
nursery carers to each other.
Enrichment, including introduction of palms and bushes, helps to prepare them
for foraging, and also for moving through the forest, where branches are not nailed
Contact with the carers is reduced to feed times, when cages are cleaned,
leafy browse is replaced, fruit provided and water refreshed.
Several months prior to release, howler monkeys are moved into the extensive
pre-release enclosure – ¾ acre of forest surrounded by electric fencing.
Here they are monitored closely, with group cohesion, climbing, travelling and
foraging skills being assessed prior to their approaching release in the Fireburn