November 20, 2018
By Nicole Rivard
Before her arrival at Primarily Primates in 1997, chimpanzee Mandy, who lives in section we call the “Outback,” was part of a zoo in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, once described by Parade Magazine as one of the 10 worst zoos in America before it eventually closed.
Despite her horrible living conditions and lack of enrichment, Mandy was willing to trust her caregivers at PPI right from the start. She is always interested in grooming them and just about anyone she meets—that’s Mandy’s way of extending an invitation for friendship.
Speaking of friendship, sweet Mandy was Buck’s guide to all things chimp when he joined her troupe in 2009. He was released to PPI from a Missouri pet home, where he had been kept in an indoor cage for years. When he first arrived, it was very difficult to encourage Buck to accept a nutritional diet since he had been fed lots of junk food. And he was terrified of grass—he would stay inside or crawl like a spider on his habitat barrier walls.
The difference that Primarily Primates has made in the lives of its residents is untold. Our supporters may not realize that it was the first primate sanctuary established in North America and the first to provide sanctuary to rescued chimpanzees. Our first chimp, arrived in 1983.
The need for chimp housing was urgent and housing was built using materials that were not galvanized and of a lighter gauge compared with the heavy gauge galvanized components routinely used for current construction. Today, some of these structures, like the “Outback” that houses Mandy, Buck, April, Raisin and Buffy, have lost much of their original strength and have become a substantial maintenance burden, necessitating the replacement of the primary mesh caging.
That’s why we have launched a $140,000 capital campaign for the necessary renovations that will improve the safety and wellness of our animals and our staff and volunteers. The “Outback” project, which will provide an additional 20-plus years of use, is also required by the United States Department of Agriculture as a prerequisite to obtaining a viewing license.
What’s exciting about such a license is it will enable PPI to conduct tours and educate supporters regarding the impact of research, entertainment and exotic pet ownership on primates. The educational capabilities PPI can impart in this regard are substantial, and can build a foundation for better understanding of the needs of wild animals—in and out of captivity—through public outreach.