Primarily Primates Newsletter
Chimpanzees: We Can Work It Out
A little over a year ago, PPI staffers got together to discuss the possibility of introducing two groups of chimpanzees—each consisting of one male and two females. The first group consisted of Uriah (31 yrs old), April (40) and Buffy (37). The second group: Buck (16 yrs old), Holly (25) and Mandy (39). We mulled various ways to form the group of six chimpanzees. We also discussed at great length the possibilities of how to handle any problems that could arise. Our biggest fear was how the two adult male chimpanzees would interact and whether they’d accept one another.
Despite our fears, the introduction of both these groups was not only pretty seamless, but truly unique. Uriah and Buck are both alpha males, and during the introduction process, we discovered that each of them had two caring females who would stand by them in case of a dispute. While scraps and minor bites are common during disputes, Buck—who was raised as a pet by humans—lacked any real adult chimpanzee experience, and as a result was the more aggressive of the two. Uriah took a step down from the Alpha male role and Buck was very much the king of his new castle.
But Buck had something coming up that Uriah already had: a vasectomy. For a couple of weeks afterwards, Buck was out of commission as alpha male and upon his return, he discovered that the two females who thoroughly backed him up, had time to get to know April, Buffy, and Uriah without him. Buck, who was not up to speed (for obvious reasons) attempted to reassert himself as Alpha male, and Uriah gave him a good thump on the head.
Buck went screaming to a corner of the enclosure, and was soon hugged and comforted by others—including Uriah! It was as if Uriah was saying “sorry!”
Buck is now alpha male sometimes—and so is Uriah! They have come to some sort of arrangement whereby they both get to display and behave like alpha males just as long as they don’t get too close to each other during their displays.
This unusual arrangement makes this group of chimpanzees one of the most intriguing groups of great apes residing at the sanctuary. What a pleasure they are to observe.
Editor’s Note: As this newsletter was going to press, Uriah died peacefully of natural causes on Saturday, February 25, 2012. He was 31 years old. He will be dearly missed.
Gibbons: Music to Our Ears
We care for four gibbons: José Maria, Junior, and Scoshio (white-handed gibbons) and Kimchi (a white-cheeked gibbon hybrid). The song of gibbons is beautiful, and hard to describe. Each gibbon has a song that’s both similar to others and unique. The two male gibbons, Junior and Jose Maria, sound like they are singing the bass part in a choir of gibbons; they have the deep sounding calls that seem to harmonize with the females who sing the higher pitched melodies. The songs of Scoshio and Kimchi are quite varied. Scoshio tends to have a beautifully pitched high note that can get higher and higher (she’s our resident Mariah Carey!) and then switch to a lower tone quickly. Kimchi’s singing is very high pitched and bright—reaching higher octaves effortlessly.
The chorus they create sets the mood for all the gibbons. Today, as I write this, the sun gleams down brightly on the freshly rained ground, their voices bounce across the surrounding hills; neighbors of the sanctuary often express how wondrous the music is that they make—often mistaking the gorgeous gibbon music for birdsong. People are always surprised when I tell them the voices belong to gibbons.
Visit PrimarilyPrimates.org and hear the beautiful music of our resident gibbons. Andy Cockrum, our videographer, captured some beautiful footage; the video is called “Song of the Gibbons.”
Capuchins: That’s Not Religion; That’s a Bug Repellent!
One of the great joys of working at Primarily Primates is watching our residents. And among the most interesting and adorable activities we get to witness takes place in our capuchin area: the act of anointing.
In our culture, the word “anoint” likely brings to mind some religious ritual—but it literally means to smear one’s self with an oily substance. Capuchins anoint themselves with the green onions we give them a few times a month.
They take the onions and use them like a bar of soap; they appear to be scrubbing themselves with onions—rubbing every inch of their small bodies, even their arm pits and the tops of their heads. It doesn’t take long for a full-blown anointing party to unfold—with all the capuchins taking “onion baths” simultaneously.
Scientists explain that “anointing” is actually a chemical weapon: the scent will repel ticks and mosquitoes. From what we’ve observed here at the sanctuary, it works! Free-living capuchins use many different types of plants or even insects to anoint themselves—sometimes even causing themselves great pain in the process (though primatologists say that capuchins have a particularly high threshold for the pain caused by this ritual). The green onions we provide work to deter insects without irritation and pain. Our capuchins simply smell like onions!
The Director’s Diary:
On January 29, 2012, a group of Primarily Primates staff got together to watch “60 Minutes” at the care-staff house. Priscilla Feral, the president of both Primarily Primates and Friends of Animals, was appearing on the show to discuss hunting ranches and endangered animals—specifically the scimitar-horned oryx, addax, and dama gazelles who are routinely bred and killed on hunting ranches here in Texas. Priscilla was also on the show to discuss Friends of Animals’ ongoing project in Senegal—a reserve that seeks to save the oryx from total extinction in their natural habitat.
The interview, conducted by Lara Logan, has highlighted an aspect of Texas culture to which many are oblivious: the state contains thousands of sprawling, tourist-oriented hunting ranches. Some exist in close proximity to Primarily Primates.
These ranches exist to make money off the backs of dead animals by marketing “safaris” and “hunting experiences”—though the animals are trapped on the properties, and the hunters wield powerful weapons and even more powerful money; in other words, a kill is practically guaranteed—because the ranch wants money, and the hunter wants a trophy.
As I was returning home, I heard something stumbling around in the dark—but couldn’t see anything. It almost sounded like someone on horse-back—as I could make out the sound of hooves clip-clopping on rocks.
I went home and got my truck and drove around the sanctuary for over an hour—shining lights into dark spaces, finding nothing. I gave up.
The next morning, the field behind the chimpanzee enclosure adjacent to the pond was teaming with vultures. When we went to see what all the commotion was about, we found a dead wild boar. In Texas, boars can be killed at any time of year. They are considered feral, a nuisance, destructive. (Sounds like some humans I know!)
Perhaps this animal had come to our property to escape guns and bullets. That might explain the stumbling, unsteady sound of hooves I heard the night before.
Here at Primarily Primates, we’re in the business of saving lives; it’s chilling to remember we live alongside industries that exist to destroy them. This feral pig reminded me in a disturbing way why our dedication to life-affirming work matters so much for more than 400 residents protected by Primarily Primates.
We appreciate your support, and are glad you side with the animals.
Stephen Rene Tello,
Rest in Peace, Holly
In January 2012, we lost Holly—a dear patas monkey who’s lived at Primarily Primates for 20 years. Holly is an ex-pet, who hopped every time she saw humans. Because of this, she earned the nickname “Hopper.”
Holly lived with Dos and Tres, and was the alpha female of the group. Largely, Holly ignored her companions—focusing attention, instead, on the human caregivers. She likely focused on humans because she was raised by them. She was especially drawn to male caregivers, whom she liked to groom. The hopping moves are not uncommon for primates subjected to human households; Holly retained it, even through a long life alongside other patas monkeys.
Patas monkeys originate from West and East Africa. Unlike most monkeys, patas monkeys live on the ground rather than in trees. They’re very fast, too—able to reach a speed of 55 km per hour (34.2 mph). Unfortunately, they are common victims of the exotic pet trade industry.
Holly’s previous owners sent her a care package every year at Christmas—a tradition they never abandoned. She received an entire box of wrapped gifts, and Holly delighted in opening and enjoying her various presents. We always took pictures of the event and sent them to Holly’s former owners.
It’s always tragic when one of our residents passes on, but especially so when they have been with us for decades as Holly was. We’ll miss her dearly.
Memorials, Gifts and Dedication Donations
Stephen Tello: Thank you for your awesome kindness
In honor of Oliver
In Memory of Raymond Garcia
By His Loving Friends
In memory of sweet little Miko, a capuchin who will be sadly missed by Lisa & Rusty Miner
Judith R. Kern
In honor of the Shelbyville, Tennessee rescues and the macaque who died there
Carol Bullock Clemmons
In Honor of All God’s Creatures
In honor of Bailey & Java
In honor of Andy Cockrum
In honor of our five grandchildren
Karen & Stephen Dantinne
In honor of Ms. Joni Propst
In honor of Ken Oberg & Wally Swett; in memory of Greg Miller
Maurice & Julie Mazel
In Honor of Elizabeth Dunn Wansley on her 6th Birthday
By William Dunn Wansley
In loving memory of my dear father Roy Spencer Rushing who loved and protected animals his whole life.
In honor of your prize-winning vegan chili and vegan cooks
A gift donation in the name of Lore Schneider
for Primate Enrichment and Joy
Unsalted sunflower seeds
Dried or fresh fruit
Kong dog toys
As always, we thank you. We couldn’t do this work without your generous financial support. Your tax-deductable gifts help us provide the very best care for our residents. To learn about more ways you can help, or to see our videos and past newsletters, please visit: www.primarilyprimates.org
Stephen Rene Tello, Executive Director
Priscilla Feral, President
- Chimpanzees: We Can Work It Out
- The Director’s Diary: Leaf-Eating Monkeys With Booming Whoops
- A Match Made In Heaven
- Spotlight on Willie and Friends
- The Director’s Diary: Rescued Macaque Monkeys Faring Well
- The Director’s Diary: The Arrival of Joey, a Capuchin Monkey
- Max and Lorenzo: Two Great Escapes
- The Fruit of a New Alliance: The Primarily Primates Advisory Board
- Who’s That New Chimpanzee – Curious George? No, It’s Buck!
- Birds Spread Their Wings At Their New Home
- Kecko’s Story
Who Is a Lemur, and Why Would One Live in Texas?
- Sun and Wind Provide Power for Primarily Primates - Fall 2008
- Update: The Emma and Jackson Custody Case Closes - June 2008
- What’s New at Primarily Primates
Updates from Priscilla Feral and Stephen Rene Tello - February 2008
- Dear Friend of Primarily Primates: - December 5, 2007
- New Direction; New Hope: Welcome Message and Sanctuary Updates from Stephen R. Tello, Executive Director of PPI - June 28, 2007