Primarily Primates Newsletter
Winter 2010-11

Spotlight on Willie and Friends

By Stephen Rene Tello | Winter 2010-11
Willie, from Project X, at Primarily Primates

Twenty-five years have passed since the chimpanzee Willie, now aged 29, arrived with four other chimpanzees who were owned by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All had been trained to perform in Project X, a popular film about chimpanzees used for Air Force research.

As it happens, Willie and his friend Harry (also used in Project X) were born at San Antonio’s Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research. Willie was raised by his mother only for six months, then removed to the lab’s nursery along with Harry. Both chimpanzees were transferred to the entertainment business around the age of three.

Today, Willie, Harry and Okko, all from Twentieth Century Fox, live together in a troop of five energetic male chimpanzees, which includes Chobe and KoKo Michaels. Within this tightly balanced group, Willie’s significant ally is Okko, the leader of the group, although Harry remains a close friend. For years, Okko’s authority was backed by Willie, but in recent months Willie has settled into neutrality.

Promotion stills of Willie appearing in the popular film Project X

Two quarreling chimpanzees can stimulate 25 other chimpanzees to scream as they watch every detail of a dispute. The anger-management counselor in Willie’s group is Harry, who will run back and forth trying to settle arguments.

When pressed, Harry will defend Okko or Willie.

Willie’s grass-bottomed habitat is 60 feet long and 40 feet wide, alongside three other enclosures of the same attractive design—full of climbing structures and high ceilings, overlooking a pond.

The most joyful time of day at the sanctuary is the arrival of caregivers who carry wheelbarrows of carrots, lettuce, broccoli, apples, pears, melons, plums, bananas and other fruits and vegetables. A few chimpanzees typically sit high, waiting to spot them. Screams follow. Within seconds, a chorus of 60 more chimpanzees fills the air while they race around their habitats, hugging each other, or stomping the ground as though to say, “Hurry up!”

Winter 2011 Newsletter

One of six macaques who recently arrived at PPI from Austin lab

In late November last year, six young Java macaques arrived at our sanctuary. George, Edwin, Woodstock, Thelma, Louise and Momma’s Boy were released from an Austin, Texas bio-pharmaceutical company that conducts drug tests. The monkeys were bred for this purpose in Cambodia.

The monkeys have no viruses, and their medical records do not show what was done to them in the two labs that housed them after their shipment to the United States. Today, they’re adjusting to new friends, outdoor surroundings, food and care at Primarily Primates. With 44 other recently arriving primates and birds, Primarily Primates had a record-setting year of rescues in 2010.

Primarily Primates' veterinarian, Dr. Kirk observes the new arrivals

These animals include 25 Java macaques rescued from a defunct New Jersey toxicology lab, two Rhesus macaques confiscated as pets from a home in Ohio, two vervet monkeys from a closed roadside attraction in San Antonio, one capuchin monkey from a home in Pennsylvania, six Blue and Gold macaws from a New York parrot rescue group, and two Amazon parrots from a Connecticut bird rescue effort.

We thank you for providing the contributions and encouragement that makes top-quality care possible for the sanctuary’s residents—more than 400 apes, monkeys, lemurs, birds, and other animals.

Special appreciation goes to our Sanctuary Partners for Chimpanzees and Monkeys in 2011. To become an Annual Sanctuary Partner please visit

Vervet Monkeys Arrive

Kabuna, a vervet monkey and Pretzel's friend at PPI

Last fall, a Florida sanctuary asked Primarily Primates’ Executive Director Stephen Rene Tello to help capture 25 capuchin monkeys who were being relocated there after a San Antonio site known as Wildlife Animal Orphanage closed.

Stephen noticed two 15-year-old vervet monkeys once used in behavioral studies at the University of Austin, and offered to move them to Primarily Primates.

We asked Twitter followers (see to name the monkeys and the names selected were Pretzel and Gus. After vasectomies, the monkeys were socialized into mixed groups.

Kabuna with Tuber Treats

Pretzel lives with other vervet (also known as African Green) monkeys Linus and Kabuna. After an initial uproar, they’re getting along splendidly.

Gus lives with Momma Sykes, an African long-tailed monkey known as a guenon. She was once housed as a breeder at a zoo and discarded when she failed to produce babies. That’s how some animals find their way from commercial institutions to private sanctuaries.





Gifts in any amount are gratefully accepted to honor or remember someone special in your life or to observe a special event.

In loving memory of
Raymond Neil Masss
Lawrence Allen

In honor of All God’s Creatures
Brien Comerford

In memory of my beloved cat “Brownie,” who enriched my life.
Jeffery Jump

In loving memory for “Zero,” my Weimaraner who passed on 11/17/10
Gaye L Rushing

Christmas membership to Primarily Primates for Kathy Patten
Ramona Ludvik

For care of the cougars Jesse and James, in honor of Amy Jones
Cory Jones

Wish List

Our staffers request the following items to offer animals in their care.

Parrot toys

Unsweetened Cheerios and Raisin Bran

Raisins and other dried fruit

Sunflower seeds

Fresh fruit

Unshelled, unsalted nuts

Peanut butter

Plain oatmeal

Your Help is Essential

The new habitat for macaques to be occupied in Spring 2011

In 2011, we ask for your continued investment in Primarily Primates through membership support. Your assistance strengthens our vigorous efforts, and allows us to assure a safe future for rescued primates and other animals.

Thank you, and may the coming year bring you many joys and successes.

Priscilla Feral, President

Stephen Rene Tello, Executive Director