The 301 monkeys who live at Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary have come from some pretty awful circumstances. Their pet dogs have had some rough starts, too.
But all are helping each other get better, in this quite magical place.
The monkeys — and their need for refuge — are why Jungle Friends exists.
Some of them are retired out of the entertainment industry, some were sold into medical research, and some were pets whose teeth were extracted by owners who were ill-equipped to handle these emotionally complex, physically strong animals.
Puchi, was found running down the Eisenhower Expressway in Chicago, fleeing from who knows what. Jersey lost one leg, and the other foot, to stress-related self-mutilation.
Udi, a spider monkey, was found in a New York City basement without food or water.
He was just a baby, and had “such severe metabolic bone disease he couldn’t even stand,” says Jungle Friends’ founder Kari Bagnall. “He scooted on his bottom to get around, now you wouldn’t know he was ever ill!”
Indeed, it’s a whole different story at the lush, 40-acre sanctuary on the outskirts of Gainesville, Florida, where the animals’ sad pasts are traded for expansive enclosures with access to all kinds of trees, and toys, and friends (and rescue dogs — more on that in a bit).
Violinist Rachel Barton Pine Plays for the Spider MonkeysWe had a very special visitor last week! Internationally acclaimed violinist Rachel Barton Pine, Violinist came to play some music for our monkeys! As you can see in this video, the spider monkeys certainly seemed to enjoy it! Stay tuned for more videos of Rachel playing for the monkeys. (Watch with volume UP!)
Posted by Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary on Monday, March 14, 2016
The monkeys even have a personal chef — nicknamed “Chef Beloved” — who cooks them a huge variety of healthy, vegan delicacies.
“They have to catch their own meat, and they do,” says Kari. “Bugs, flying insects, worms, birds, lizards, grasshoppers and crickets are always on their menu.”
Oh, yeah, and about the monkeys’ pet rescue dogs.
All right, let’s be honest: we used the word “pet” a little generously here.
They are really more like fellow travelers who’ve found literal sanctuary together in this friendly place.
Usually, there’s a whole pack of Jungle Friends rescue dogs (and a couple of fosters).
The dogs’ biographies are often as sad as the monkeys’.
Brandi, the first Jungle Friends dog, was left in an apartment with a cat and no food when students moved out. Cleaners found the pair. The cat ran away, and Brandi was given to another family — who left her outside, tied to a tree, during a hurricane.
A Jungle Friends volunteer found Brandi in this state, and brought her to the sanctuary.
The three current resident canines have less tragic beginnings.
Two — Lulu the tripod Pittie and little Jackie — were shelter dogs, facing a high risk of euthanasia. And Potter, another small guy, lived with a family next door, but preferred hanging out at the sanctuary — and finally just moved on in.
What do the dogs do, at Jungle Friends? “Nothing extraordinary,” Kari says, understatedly, “other than they provide lots of entertainment and enrichment for the monkeys.”
That means that the dogs are put to work helping out with the monkeys! Well, sort of.
They don’t, like, work in the kitchen or engage in fundraising efforts. (That would be silly, but fantastic.)
They do pitch in, though.
The dogs are part of what Kari calls Jungle Friends’ “enrichment program” — meaning that the dogs and the monkeys help keep each other mentally stimulated and engaged.
Basically, they find each other fascinating, and will find pretty terrific ways to interact.
Some monkeys, for instance, use their tails to pet the dogs.
There are also monkeys who toss treats to the dogs. The white face capuchins, in particular, find it hilarious to try to bean the dogs with bits of chow — luckily the dogs think this game is really fun, too, and will beg for food outside their yards.
Potter, one of the dogs, stands guard over new monkeys when they arrive at the sanctuary. He seems to think it keeps them safe. (Honestly, they’d be safe anyway, but don’t tell Potter his work isn’t essential.)
Sometimes one of the monkeys will develop an extra special friendship with one of the dogs — from a distance; the monkeys can be unpredictably violent, so the dogs aren’t allowed in their enclosures.
Potter, for example, got close with a capuchin named Carlie. He’d hang around by the outside her pen, and “would let Carlie take the food right out of his mouth,” says Kari.
Ah, young love — then fickle Carlie made friends with another capuchin, and lost interest in her dog pal.
Jungle Friends’ dogs don’t just give the monkeys some enrichment. They enrich Kari’s life, as well.
Kari would like a world in which her sanctuary doesn’t have to provide a haven for so many monkeys, because there aren’t so many monkeys who need refuge. So she spends a lot of time advocating for laws that would cut back on the exotic animal trade.
She founded the sanctuary almost 20 years ago now; she’s spent these decades trying to improve life for monkeys, the ones in her care and others as well.
But even she can’t hug them, or drive them around on her golf cart. She can’t let them inside her home — a cabin on the sanctuary grounds, decorated with monkey-themed artwork and furniture, from which she can see and hear many of her charges.
That’s just not how it works with monkeys — they are not domesticated in that way; they bite, which is why so many of these guys are here at the sanctuary in the first place.
The girls are loving their new larger life — a beautiful forest equipped with hula hoops!
Posted by Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary on Thursday, July 9, 2015
It’s different with the dogs. Kari can love them more simply. They live in her home. They eat what she eats (plus, the monkeys’ handouts). She dotes on them without reservation.
They “love unconditionally and just want to be loved. You can snuggle with them, sleep with them, expect them to protect you and love you, no matter what.”
Kari loves these dogs so much, and they love her so much in return, that Kari’s mother, before she died, said she wanted to come back as one of the Jungle Friends dogs.
“So every time a new dog arrives I always ask the dog, ‘Mom is that you?,'” she says. “I feel my mother everywhere, and I have to agree with my mom, the dogs have a pretty good life here!”
Get in touch at [email protected] if you know some dogs living extraordinary lives, or have another dog story to share!