Of the 42 primates I have the privilege of working with Lennie, the patas monkey, is by far the most unique.
Lennie came to PPI in October 2013 after being kept as a pet for his entire life. Like most primates who are kept as pets Lennie was not provided with the care he needed. Patas are the fasting running primate and need space to stretch their legs.
Thanks to PPI Lennie now has that opportunity and is always on the move. He loves running along the side of his habitat as I walk by, especially when I’m wearing my bright yellow rain jacket. Unlike most primates patas monkeys are ground dwellers. They do not climb or brachiate (swing from one place to another) like chimps or gibbons do.
This doesn’t mean they can’t get around though. Patas are found in the wild all across Central and South Africa in various types of terrain, but prefer open country. This open land allows the patas to show off their speed which can reach up to 34 mph. Lennie uses his strong legs and speed to run and jump from one climbing structure to the next until he is on top of his perch.
Patas are omnivorous and rely on plants and insects to make up their diet. Lennie’s favorite snacks are grapes and bananas and he will sort through the produce he is given to pick those out first. Since patas are terrestrial they do not have hands and fingers like chimps or other primates. When given pvs tubes or Kongs filled with treats, chimps use their fingers to dig out what they want. Lennie has found his own way to get to the snacks. He uses his hands to throw the enrichment all around until the treats fall out. I sometimes find the empty enrichment on top or even way outside his enclosure.
Some of Lennie’s other favorite enrichment items are basketballs, bright colored toys and his giant caterpillar stuffed animal. Another unique feature Lennie has is his alarm calls. In the wild male patas have specific alarm calls for specific threats. Males will perform a ‘bark-grunt’ when they encounter a mammalian predator like a big cat. Since Lennie does not have to worry about lions at PPI he sometimes chooses to alarm call at the different vehicles that pass through his section. I can always tell when someone is about to drive by when I hear Lennie begin to alarm call.
While Lennie has the best care thanks to PPI staff he is still affected by his time as a pet. He is very fearful of being shifted into his inside bedroom, which makes cleaning his yard a challenge. As his caregiver, I am working to alleviate this fear by gaining his trust and using positive reinforcement when he does spend time in his bedroom. Being able to care for Lennie and make his life the best has been a great experience.
He has taught me patience, problem solving and most importantly, to work on my cardio.