More than 100 Animals Settling in at their New Home at the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary Following Its Largest Transfer of Macaques in History

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Animals find a happy ending after a lifetime of suffering

Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary

The happy ending of a two year saga for 107 macaques and one baboon is finally here. In September, the last group of primates was successfully transported from their former home at the now-closed Wild Animal Orphanage (WAO) in San Antonio, Texas to their new home at the 186 acre Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary in Dilley Texas. Now, as the year comes to an end, Born Free USA reports that the animals are finally all adjusting and settling into their spacious digs – the place they will call home for the rest of their lives.    

According to Tim Ajax, Director of the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary, "It has been two months since the last group in the transfer arrived, and everyone has settled into their routine. Now cared for in large, open air enclosures the monkeys have made good use of the natural habitat and spend a good portion of each day climbing trees, exploring the ground for insects and tasty new plant shoots, and simply swaying with the treetops in the breeze. Some of these are behaviors they have never had a chance to engage in prior to coming here.”

Ajax adds, “Our new 42 stump-tailed macaque residents have all suffered for years from an allergy condition that caused hair loss and itching and we can see now that it was likely something in the environment at their previous residence since their coats are filling in nicely and there is a healthy sheen to them that was absent before. To see the social, psychological and physical health of these animals turn around, is truly amazing and uplifting.”

Among the 107 animals who arrived, are three babies. All are all doing wonderfully, reports Ajax. “The babies now have room to escape mom's protective clutches to do some safe roaming and appease their innate drive to explore, which is common to all species of primates.”

One of the groups of macaques with a baby is the rhesus group comprised of four males and eight females, including the infant named Reagan. Since they are a cohesive group and very protective of Reagan Ajax and his staff decided to try Chongo, a two year old ex-pet male rhesus, with them to see if he could start learning some monkey social skills, which unfortunately he had never had the chance to learn before. “We set him up in his own area and despite being very human-centered due to having been someone’s ‘pet,’ Chongo is now slowly making progress under the guidance from the adult monkeys. Several females visit him and quietly sit near him to provide reassurance. Transitioning from a confused ‘pet’ to a well-adjusted monkey can be a challenge but the experienced rhesus group is making it much easier for him.”

Adam Roberts, Executive Vice President of Born Free USA, says, “Challenges remain and we need ongoing financial support to provide the very best for them – and the over 500 other residents at the sanctuary -- for the next 20 years. We are thrilled with how readily the residents from the massive move have adapted to their new natural habitat and larger space. It has been an incredible rescue."

It all started on August 31, 2010, when Wild Animal Orphanage (WAO) announced the decision to dissolve its sanctuary “due to overpopulation, underfunding and inadequate housing for the animals.” According to the WAO board, they were in a “do or die situation” and they had to find placement for over 100 macaques, 55 tigers, 14 African lions, 16 chimpanzees, six wolf hybrids, and 20 baboons. Sanctuaries were found for all of these animals, in part through the leadership of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), of which Born Free USA is a member.

In 2011, Born Free USA worked for months with WAO and the Texas Attorney General to find a way to help these animals. If Born Free USA did not step in, the large group of primates would likely have been euthanized. Since finalizing the details in November 2011, the sanctuary spent eight months building proper facilities and preparing for its new residents.
The move presented many challenges. In addition to the number of macaques involved, there were other highly complicated issues including: their sensitive social groupings -- 12 different animal groupings with troops as small as three and as large as 28; the age range -- from under one year old to some in their 30s; many physical health conditions from cataracts to skin and age-related bone issues; and a multitude of mental health issues many still suffer from as a result of their captivity prior to their life at WAO.

Roberts adds “Every day wild animals need to be rescued from ‘pet owners,’ laboratories, roadside zoos, and other abusive circumstances, but this time it is about a large sanctuary having to shut down completely -- a place where these animals were already once saved. Wild animals belong in the wild and these scenarios should never exist at all. Sanctuaries are filled to capacity, costly to run, and are the only aid we can give these animals.”

To learn more about the sanctuary, make a donation, or “adopt a primate” this holiday season visit

Born Free USA is a nationally recognized leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation, and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to America the message of “compassionate conservation” -- the vision of the U.K.-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film Born Free, along with their son Will Travers, now CEO of both organizations. Born Free’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. More at:; twitter; Facebook

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Rodi Rosensweig
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