Primarily Primates Newsletter
Spring 2014

The Rebirth of Primarily Primates


Spring is the season of rebirth, so it couldn’t be a more fitting time to announce Brook Chavez as executive director of Primarily Primates PPI as well as the completion of the PrimaDome. Before being named executive director at Primarily Primates in February, Chavez had been the animal enrichment coordinator for a year. “Enrichment is not a new concept in the sanctuary world, but its importance is being recognized more and more. Simply put, effective enrichment provides an appropriate environment that promotes natural behaviors and mental stimulation,” Chavez said. “We break our enrichment program down into several types, including physical, social, dietary and sensory. My favorite enrichment at the sanctuary hands down has to be the termite mound simulator, where the chimpanzees are given bamboo shoots to ‘fish’ out savory and sweet substances placed in a crafted containment structure that is several feet beyond their reach. It’s amazing to observe their own unique ways of manipulating the shoots to retrieve the bounty.”

Prior to joining PPI, she worked 12 years as the executive director of Sunny Day Farms Animal Sanctuary, which became the largest farm animal sanctuary in the state of Texas. Throughout the years she gained extensive experience in animal welfare and non-profit organization leadership. Her efforts saved close to 500 farm animals.

“I visited PPI for the first time three years ago when the sanctuary had space available for cows,” Chavez said. “I met the animals and left a piece of my heart at the sanctuary. I told myself that I had to be there. My visit with the animals of PPI influenced my decision to change the direction of my life and close Sunny Day Farms. I started working at PPI on Valentine’s Day 2013 — how appropriate.”

Chavez said that being a part of Primarily Primates and making a difference in the lives of the animals has been incredibly fulfilling and life changing. “The rewards of following the path of love and kindness are unimaginable,” she said.

What she thinks would surprise people the most about PPI is that it receives hundreds of heartbreaking primate placement calls and letters a year.

“I wish people knew,” she said. “Sadly, many people make the decision to purchase a monkey. The first year usually does not warrant a placement call, however, the honeymoon always ends and the reality check begins. Monkeys usually will become destructive out of frustration and the realization that the life it is currently living is not the life it was designed for. The primate will usually become bored and frustrated that it doesn’t have the space that it needs, nor adequate mental stimulation to keep occupied. Education and outreach will be a vital component of our future, with hopes of encouraging people not to purchase primates for pets, avoiding the sad fate of most pet monkeys that are unable to find a sanctuary.”

She said her immediate goals include building collaborative relationships internally and externally and pointing the sanctuary toward more innovative and natural habitats. A perfect example is the new PrimaDome, she said, which marks a wonderful achievement for the sanctuary. The 25-foot high grass-bottomed PrimaDome habitat is connected to chimpanzee enclosures through tunnels so that seven or more apes can enjoy climbing and resting in this geodesic dome filled with cargo ropes, vertical logs and other structures.

“Watching the chimpanzees touch earth as nature intended was an overwhelming and proud moment for the staff and supporters. The next chapter of Primarily Primates has begun,” Chavez said. “I am thrilled about the opportunity to work with our passionate donors, volunteers and staff who have the dedicated support of an incredible group like Friends of Animals.”

Baby Grace
All Grown Up



During the cold winter months, PPI was filled with warmth during a celebration of Grace’s birthday. Hope gave birth to Grace at Primarily Primates Feb. 18, 2007. At that time the mother and daughter chimpanzees were removed from a larger family group and into a new habitat with Amy, another adult chimpanzee who liked youngsters. For the first few months, Hope spent every moment protecting and caring for Grace — not even Amy could pry the little one away, recalls a PPI staff member.

Eventually, Hope started to wean Grace, setting her near a toy or on a swing and then walking away. At first little Grace screamed in protest but each little step from her got farther and farther away until eventually Grace realized that she could also depend on Amy and feel safe with her. Amy doted on the baby chimpanzee and let her crawl all over her body and bite her fingers and toes.

Before long, the family of three joined Deeter and Jewel in a newly completed chimpanzee habitat measuring 20 feet high, 40 feet wide and 60 feet long, with four climatecontrolled indoor bedrooms. Designed with soft grass bottom and plenty of climbing structures and hammocks for resting and playing, it was the perfect habitat for baby Grace, and they all remain there today along with Stella.

A photo of Grace when she was a newborn and liked to be close to her mom Hope at all times. Now at age 7, she’s an independent free-spirited chimp.

Now at age seven, Grace is no longer the easily frightened infant who whimpers for her mom. She is independent, high-spirited and intelligent. She is also quite strong, often hanging high above the ground with one arm, dangling there precariously. She charges around her large gassy habitat moving quickly; usually targeting Jewel. Jewel responds to her playful romps — they grab each other and play bite. Grace’s favorite foods are apples, grapes and bananas. Her mom Hope also had a winter birthday. She was born on Jan. 5, 1997 in the gloomy confines of the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates, a New York University research laboratory that was shuttering its doors. The chimpanzees at the laboratory faced being transferred to the Coulston Foundation, where they could have been subjected to invasive or toxic research, unless PPI could raise the funds necessary to build them enclosures at the sanctuary.

PPI secured the funds and came to the rescue, building them a large, openair habitat with climbing structures. Hope, just 10 months old, and nine other chimpanzees arrived at the sanctuary on November 1997.

Thanks to PPI, Hope was free of research protocols and living with a compatible group of younger apes, including Thomas, who had not yet had a vasectomy, resulting in Hope’s unexpected pregnancy.

Seventeen years later Hope enjoys spending time by herself, sitting at the top of a hammock and looking out over the trees at all the wildlife that wanders onto the grounds of Primarily Primates. Her favorite foods are romaine lettuce, apples, bananas, grapes and watermelon.

Spider Monkeys
Dig Their New Digs

It has been almost four years since Primarily Primates said goodbye to an aging lion habitat and construction of an innovative habitat for spider monkeys W.C., Rosie, My Boy, Ian and Scooter began. The spider monkeys now have a 35-foot lakeside home, complete with many different areas for the animal care staff to observe the animals.

In addition to having different lengths of fire hose to climb and plenty of room to swing from tree to tree, a naturalistic pool was added to the spider monkeys’ space during a recent remodeling effort. This exciting detail will provide the monkeys with a great way to cool down from the heat of the upcoming summer months. Spider monkeys are very social and their habitat encourages them to interact frequently with each other through calls, play, chasing and even grooming each other. This interaction encourages the deep social bonds that inevitably form at Primarily Primates, something they never experienced before they called the sanctuary home.

Please Stay Involved

You can follow our day-to-day work by “liking” Primarily Primates on Facebook, and viewing our website,, which has links to our YouTube and Twitter accounts. We work hard to keep supporters updated and inspired, and we offer you intriguing visuals of the sanctuary’s 470 residents. Your financial support is invigorating; it fuels and defines our best efforts. Please make a donation whenever you can.

Many thanks,

Priscilla Feral
President, Primarily Primates

Memorials, Gifts & Dedication Donations

In Honor of Elizabeth Dunn Wansley on her 8th birthdayand Stevi Smith Wansley on her 51st birthday
William Dunn Wansley

In memory of Robert Glessner
Judith K. Brown

In honor of All God’s Creatures
Brien Comerford

In honor of Nancy Curriden
Linda Popelish

In honor of Bo
Trudy McNair

In honor of Lucy Jean, my 49 year-old golden spider monkey
Jody Adams

In memory of Bruce Farmer
Bill & Erika Carter

In honor of Andy Cockrum
Melanie Barr

In memory of Bo & Baby Tom
Trudy McNair

Bless our animals, our Troops and America
Marianne & Dan Parks

In loving memory of Spunky the spider monkey
Mona Montgomery

In memory of my girlfriend, Suzie Franklin DeFazio, 1953–2013
Richard Abbott

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